“About Time” For Some Jazz!


Robert Anderson

Bishop’s Jazz ensembles performed in their final concert of the year.

For Bishop’s Jazz, the weeks before spring break are not centered around the typical end-of-quarter stress. Instead, it’s a time to “straighten up and fly right” – or get together with a group of friends and play music. The Jazz I and Jazz III ensembles did just this in their spring concert “It’s About Time,” last weekend.

The setlist consisted of a blend of “jazz standards” – songs known as the most popular and recognizable jazz tunes – and contemporary pieces, as saxophonist Steven Yin (‘24) explained. Pianist Aidan Kaplan (‘23) added that the six songs Jazz III played were all very different. But he categorized “Seven Steps to Heaven” by Miles Davis and “All The Things You Are” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein as similar, as they are standards that were composed in the 60s. 

Besides that, every song in the program had its own subgenre. “Regardless of your jazz preferences, we have it all,” he said. “If you like more fast-paced jazz, look out for ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’ and for ‘Spain’ by Chick Corea. If you like slower, prettier jazz, look out for ‘Don’t Know Why’ by Jesse Harris and ‘All The Things You Are.’”

Aidan’s favorite piece, he said, would have to be “Spain,” which closed off the program. Steven agreed that the group was all excited about this piece in particular. “It was a difficult piece to get down, but now it’s really fun for all of us,” he said. Singer and electric cellist Natasha Mar (‘23) was especially excited by “Spain” as well, and said, “I’d always wanted to play it, and coincidentally Mr. Anderson chose it for this concert.”

As far as the preparation process goes for concerts like this, any member of the jazz ensembles will agree that rehearsing is a fun and collaborative group effort. Steven said that the goal of the rehearsals was for it to feel like “friends playing around with jazz, rather than rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing.” As drummer Giacomo Berti (‘24) put it, “We’re all friends with each other, so we’re not afraid to criticize each other and give constructive feedback – it’s a really open space where everyone has something to learn all the time.” 

Specifically, in rehearsals, the jazz players make changes to the music by constantly making different suggestions. “You can’t say no,” Steven explained. “If someone asks, ‘what if we shortened the solo? Or made it longer?’ It’s always ‘yes, let’s try it.’” After experimentation, they decide what to add to the concert. Natasha reflected that this cooperative dynamic is what makes jazz band so special to her. “We’ve kind of become like a family, we always bicker and have fun.”

This atmosphere has only grown over recent years. Steven and Giacomo started playing in jazz band in 8th grade, which was also the year Director of Instrumental Music Mr. Robert Anderson came to Bishop’s. Both of the current juniors have noticed a lot of development in the program within their years in jazz. “I’ve seen Mr. Anderson really get into the Bishop’s spirit,” Steven reflected. “We’re always learning so much from him because he knows a lot about jazz, but with him also warming up to us and becoming part of our community, it’s super wholesome to see.”

Similarly, Natasha appreciated how much Mr. Anderson has supported her over the years. She joined the band that same year, as a freshman, and said that she knew nothing about jazz at the time. “When I came into it, I thought I was supposed to play piano, and Mr. Anderson said to play the cello, and I was very scared. But this group of people really helped me feel comfortable in my musicality.” As this was her final jazz performance at Bishop’s, Natasha felt very sentimental.

In Aidan’s case, his first year in jazz is also his last. “I joined jazz in my senior year to diversify my own piano playing,” he said. “I’ve learned to greatly appreciate it, and I will be sad not being able to work with the other musicians anymore. I never expected my classically trained self to venture into the jazz world, but I am so happy I did.”

The two graduating seniors will certainly be missed. “Natasha and Aidan have been such good friends to all of us. I hope they come back to visit in the future,” said Steven. Giacomo agreed, explaining that he had his own moment when it hit him. “When I saw them giving their speeches after the last performance, I saw myself in their shoes – it was a real moment of realization. In my next jazz concert, I’m going to be a senior, and I don’t feel ready at all,” he laughed.

Naturally, players graduating comes with younger students stepping up to the plate. Giacomo is optimistic about this cycle, explaining, “we’ve had a lot of seniors come and go, so we’ve been in a bit of a phase of rebuilding. Now, I think we’re going really strong, and I’m really happy with the place we’re at,” he said. Giacomo is also excited about the potential he sees in Jazz I players. “Once I graduate, I think Bishop’s jazz will be in good hands.”