The Wilton High School Little Theater was alive with syncopated rhythms one week ago at the 44th Annual John Rhodes Jazz Symposium. Eight high school groups took to the stage for an evening of jazz, representing students from Norwalk, Ridgefield, Darien, Stamford and Port Chester, in addition to Wilton. The standard of the musicianship on stage provided an outstanding night of jazz, with music by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Mingus, Cole Porter and Wilton’s very own Dave Brubeck among the many jazz classics performed.

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Each ensemble was given feedback by special guest clinician Arthur Lipner. Lipner, a professional musician and longtime Wilton resident, encouraged the groups to watch their own performances and to pay attention to the rhythms of the music. “Put the horns down and clap the parts to focus on the rhythm, rhythm is a huge part of the music, feeling the pulse can bring the band together,” he advised the students. He also encouraged young musicians to have curiosity and adventure in the music that they chose to listen to. “There is a lot of music out there, the more you listen to the more you find you will enjoy.”

Later in the evening Lipner introduced Chris Brubeck, the Grammy-nominated composer and multi-instrumentalist son of the late Dave Brubeck. Brubeck joined Wilton High School’s Jazz 1 ensemble to play a trombone solo on the piece ‘Moody,’ a song written by his father.

Jake Arnowitz, WHS junior and saxophonist, described the experience as, “An enormous honor and pleasure to play with such a jazz legend, I have been inspired to listen and learn  even more about jazz–I spent the whole weekend listening to Brubeck music.”

At the end of the evening the audience was treated to music played by the Berkshire Jazz Orchestra, an orchestra of music professionals including WHS music teacher Nick Loafman on trumpet. Brubeck played along with the group, rounding off what was a truly memorable evening of music.

The eponymous John Rhodes was in attendance for the 44th time. Accompanied by members of the Middlebrook music department, Rhodes enjoyed being back in the Little Theater and having the opportunity to listen to and catch up with his old students.

Speaking after the event Lipner had this to say:  “The amount of talent in Wilton and neighboring communities is astounding, you can hear all the hard work that the students put in to prepare their concert repertoire. Clearly, the band directors have the vision and means to inspire students to make such beautiful music. It is so exciting to see and hear so much talent in our community.”