Mustangs showcase their talent at the Young Lions Jazz Master Sessions.
After a decade playing classical music on the piano, Lakewood Ranch High School’s Carlos Moreno was ready for freedom.
So as a sophomore, he joined the school’s jazz band.
“Jazz solos bring something to the table that a lot of other music doesn’t,” said Moreno, who is now a senior. “With classical music, we stick to the page. With jazz solos, you have this freedom to go to so many places. It is a really good time.”
Moreno will be performing a piano solo Dec. 9 as one of the Lakewood Ranch Jazz Band’s selections during the Young Lions Jazz Master Sessions in Clearwater.
He worries he might go blank while the spotlight shines on him, but going blank during a jazz performance is not that big a deal. That might be the beauty of the genre.
“I’ll just have to come up with something new, which won’t be a problem because I’ve spent a lot of time on the piano, without sheet music, just seeing what I can come up with,” Moreno said.
The 40 students from the Lakewood Ranch Jazz Band will travel to Clearwater to perform in front of jazz professionals.
It’s the first time Lakewood Ranch High has been chosen to perform at the festival.
“I think we were chosen because people have been realizing how successful this band is, consistently, and we have become known in the community,” said Michael Miller, a senior saxophone player.
Ron Lambert, Lakewood Ranch High director of bands, is proud of his students’ talent.
“I take them out a lot,” Lambert said. “This band is like an ambassador to the school. A lot of people see it play.”
Jazz 1, the advanced jazz band, will be performing two pieces in Clearwater. One is “Backburner” written by Les Hooper and the other, “RU Chicken?” is written by Kris Berg.
“I wanted two very contrasting styles,” Lambert said. “One is a fast swing style and the other is an infectious funk-jazz tune.”
Performing at the Young Lions Jazz Master Sessions also is an educational opportunity.
Students also will attend workshops with professionals who play their particular instrument.
“This is a great opportunity to be seen by college professors and a great recruiting opportunity as well,” Lambert said. “The real benefit here is that these college guys will see some real talent.”
Miller said he will be involved in a workshop with Jeff Rupert, a saxophone professor at the University of South Florida.
“All of the teachers there are very famous and good at what they do,” Miller said. “I have never done something like this before, especially since I usually play the clarinet. This will help diversify my musical skills.”
Moreno said he is still transitioning into jazz.
“Maybe they will give me some improvisation ideas that will help me do better solos,” Moreno said. “With piano, you can play so many different notes, and sometimes I get stuck with using just my right hand and not my left enough.”
“I teach them like they are starting with a blank canvas and all they have to do is paint,” Lambert said.