Honors Jazz Ensemble takes first at Purdue University

Tress Dorfler, Assistant News & Opinion Editor

Instrumental jazz ensembles from five states across the Midwest competed for the top spot at the 30th annual Purdue Jazz Festival from Jan. 17-18. Mundelein’s Honors Jazz Ensemble brought home first place in the large high school band division.

“It’s not about the competition as much as just getting together with a bunch of other phenomenal artists,” said senior trombonist Keithen Hoferitza, who also added, “Getting first definitely hyped all of us up and has kept our playing at the next level.”

Senior saxophonist Garrett Munz received Best Soloist in the same class. Munz is planning to continue his jazz career post-high school by studying music in college.

“I love the music so much, and to go to school and immerse myself in it sounds like a dream,” he said in a Jan. 22 MHS press release.

In the same month, the Jazz Ensemble played for judges and clinicians in Peoria at the Illinois Music Education Conference on Jan. 29-Feb. 1. The ensemble submitted a recording of its best songs and was chosen to showcase its music for judges at the conference.

“This is a great honor only provided to a handful of high school jazz bands in the state of Illinois,” Band Director Andrew Sturgeon said in the Jan. 22 MHS press release.

An MHS ensemble was chosen for the same conference in 2016, and schools are eligible to apply again after four years.

Preparing for the event consisted of a lot of individual work as well as instrumental sectional time.

“We make sure that everything in our section is in order before we go and mingle with others,” sophomore trumpet player Callee Smith said.

Members listened to the pieces they played every day in rehearsal to understand the feel of the song better.

Munz’s approach to preparing music is to “be present during rehearsal” to set good habits for the performance day.

To get even more confident in playing, the ensemble performed on Jan. 26 at Lake Forest College. Clinicians were also invited throughout the year to help the ensemble prepare through professional critiques.

Jazz Ensemble players are exposed to a variety of styles from swing and Latin to funk and rock. As a result, members become well-versed in the varied traditions of the art form under the direction of Sturgeon.

He said listening to a variety of jazz musicians is a large part of the class, and “in order to learn the nuances of each of these styles, we all must listen and immerse ourselves in the music.”

Get to know some of the MHS Jazz Ensemble

   Honors Jazz Ensemble consists of 18 members who each bring a different uniqueness to the group sound. Here are five of those members who commented on why they enjoy playing in Jazz Ensemble.









Gareth Fullin, junior, alto sax

Picture by Tress Dorfler

“I really like jazz, not only because it’s fun, but also because everybody is extremely welcoming and open. We’re all encouraging each other and pushing ourselves to be better. It’s a really great thing to be a part of.”









Morgan Shumski, junior, bass trombone

Picture by Tress Dorfler

“I like the big band setting and getting the opportunity to hear many less instruments play than what I’m used to. It allows me to learn more about every instrument, which some players do not have the opportunity to experience.”








Erich Robb, junior, trombone

Picture by Tress Dorfler

“My favorite thing about being a member of Jazz Ensemble is being able to play exciting songs with other really good musicians that care about the music as much as I do.”