Mission Viejo High School Instrumental Music

Frequently Asked Questions
How do auditions work?
Auditions this year are on TUESDAY, sept 3 for horn players and WEDNESDAY, sept 4 for rhythm section players. There is an audition packet that can be picked outside the band room office STARTING THE VERY FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. The packet is specific for each instrument. It contains two pieces. One is harder than the other. There is more than one week to learn the two pieces. At the audition each player will play the two pieces. They are bebop heads, and also have the chord changes above the line. Horn players can improvise on either of the two tunes. Improvisation is not required but it helps to be an improviser. Horn players sign up for an exact time slot when they pick up the packet. Rhythm section players audition all together in all combinations of players. Piano and guitar players lean several voicings for each chord and the goal is interact with each other. Piano and guitar players should also play the written line to each tune. At the audition we are looking for competence in comping, and improvising, and interaction between players. Bass players and drummers also be prepared to invent funk and Latin grooves at the audition.
Are all of the positions open?

Yes all positions are open. Being in the band the year before does not give a player seniority of any kind. The best players at the audition are the ones who make the band.

How long is an audition?
7 minutes for horn players. Each player plays the tunes first in unison with the teacher, then alone, and then with a backing track. Improvisation is to a backing track of one of the two pieces. For rhythm section all together it takes about 40 minutes to play in all the combinations of players.
How do I prepare for an audition?
There is more than a week to practice. First learn the melodies slowly and get them under your fingers correctly. Then speed them up. Search youtube for recordings and performances of these tunes. Observe interaction, transcribe solos, come to tutorial for help, ask your private teacher for help.
How many bands are there?
Usually there are only enough players to make one big-band:

Five trumpets, five bones, five saxes, five rhythm players (1 drummer, 1 percussionist, 1 bass, 1 guitar, 1 piano).

If there are enough players for a second rhythm section, we make a smaller band with that rhythm section and various horn players. That jazz combo performs at the fall concert and also the Irvine jazz festival and the spring jazz concert. That rhythm section is encouraged to be the rhythm section for the jazz improvisation class. Generally speaking we have one big band and two combos each year. The combos can have up to three or four horn players. The top combo is usually quite good and chooses their own material and schedule etc.
If I don’t make it, how can I get better?
Lots of ways, but it takes intense interest. MVHS has jazz improvisation class second semester. This is rare in a high school. It is a 7th period class. This class is the reason we have developed so many top quality jazz players at MVHS. Also, private lessons, or YouTube subscriptions are vital.
Do you ever take two pianists or two guitar or two bass players?
Sometimes the rhythm section audition does not show a clear best player. In that case we will take two and have them split time. This is not ideal for either player. If both players are weak, then we re-audition after a semester. If both players are strong both stay in the band. There is always room for a good player.
How do I get into jazz improvisation class?
If you demonstrate strong interest, there is a place in improvisation class for you. Becoming a jazz player takes much more practice time than any other kind of music. There are two sets of players divided by ability and experience. During the class sessions we spend a lot of time playing and trading, and most players get much better quickly. If someone is not practicing it becomes obvious right away. It takes a small amount of talent and a huge amount of belief in practice. A student can do improv class every year and many have. If you want to get good, nothing will help you more than theses sessions.
What kind of music do the big-band and combos play?
The big band plays music from the giants of that idiom. Music from the bands of Thad Jones, Basie, Herman, Kenton, buddy rich, Maria Schneider, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, etc. In other words music written for professionals and steeped in tradition. This music rarely has any written notes or voicings for piano bass or guitar. Chord symbols only. Combos play from lead sheet style notation (“realbook”) which have a melody with chord symbols above. Arrangements are informal and created on the fly or through discussion or emulation.
What is the jazz schedule?
Fairly complicated because we need to work around the master schedule, and also in the months of September, October, and November, around the marching band schedule. Jazz band is an 8th period or 9th period class, which means that that it meets by arrangement. For the first 3 months the big band schedule is:

Monday: long session 2:15 till 4:15 – If a student has a different 7th period class, they miss the first 50 minutes.
Wednesday: after marching band 4:40 to 5:40 – Some years this day is Thursday depending on the marching visual staff schedule.
And then after thanksgiving the schedule is better and changes to:
Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday: 3:10 to 4:30
Monday and Friday Nothing

Combo schedule: it’s best if the combos can commit to a regular tutorial schedule. Many years tutorial is a jazz combo every single day. It is critical to play a lot. After thanksgiving, 7th period is available. For students not in marching band (a 7th period class) 7th period can be open for rehearsal all year.
Does jazz conflict with sports?
It does conflict with some sports. Some coaches are very good about splitting time with Jazz Band. Some not at all. It depends on the coach. The jazz schedule automatically allows the student to be at the sport more than they miss the sport.