More than just a fundraiser: Jazz Cabaret brings community together

March 24, 2017 — by Eleanor Goh and Esha Lakhotia

Jazz Cararet event unites community.

The Large Gym was unrecognizable — walking in felt like entering a high-class nightclub. A disco ball hung from the ceiling, and trumpets and saxophones twinkled in the spotlight as people danced on the dance floor to the jazz band’s last piece, “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller.

The annual Jazz Cabaret, held this year on March 11, is one of the few events at the school that has been around for decades — it was a tradition even before music director Michael Boitz joined the music department in 1997.

The event started as an end-of-year performance for the jazz choir and band in the cafeteria. Over the years, increasing levels of interest from both students and parents upgraded Jazz Cabaret to a prom-like dance held in the Large and Small Gyms, with live music, dancing and food.

Student and parent volunteers dedicate the entire day before Jazz Cabaret to decorate the two gyms. According to sophomore flutist Deyshna Pai, who was among those helping out with preparations this year, pulling off the transformation was no easy task with the limited time.

“There are so many elements that go into decorations,” Pai said. “It takes a lot more work than people think to stay on top of things and make the gym look pretty.”

Every year, the school’s choir and jazz band programs gain about $2,000 in profit from Jazz Cabaret, most of which is used to plan for next year’s event. Any money left helps fund the choir and jazz program’s equipment and performance venues.

Although proceeds are minimal, the experience performers and attendees gain is well worth the effort and time invested in preparation — for performers and attendees alike, the positive atmosphere of the room is almost tangible.

“Jazz Cabaret is valuable because it's so rewarding to see many diverse music groups of people of all ages coming together just to have a good time,” Pai said.

Rather than focusing on the event’s money-making aspect, the music department views Jazz Cabaret as a chance to show the capabilities of Redwood’s and Saratoga’s jazz ensembles and keep the culture of jazz music alive.

“Jazz Cabaret was created for the jazz bands and the choirs to have another performance opportunity,” jazz band director Jason Shiuan said. “It’s not really an actual fundraiser — a lot of it is just reaching out to people and bringing the community together.”

While attracting middle schoolers is not the main priority of Jazz Cabaret, increased middle school interest is an inherent by-product.  

Senior Peter VandeVort, who has participated in Jazz Cabaret since he was in seventh grade, said that his experience as a middle schooler was a big part of the reason he decided to continue with jazz in high school.

“I remember hearing lead trumpets wail on the high notes  and being amazed by the energy in the room and all the fun I was having playing music,” VandeVort said. “That excitement and enjoyment haven't left me since, and I hope that I've inspired kids the same way I was inspired back when I was in seventh grade.”

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