Posted: December 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm
By Marisa Matyola, Samantha Redd and Curtis Tenney
Morgantown, W.Va.— The more music we play, the more people will dance, and then those people will go teach others to dance. Suddenly the whole world will be dancing. Suddenly the world will be a much better place.
This is the motto of a quirky group of student musicians who call themselves the High Street Jazz Band. The ensemble was formed by music majors with one common goal — to better their community with music.
The band originally formed and chose its members based on a mutual interest in traditional jazz music. The group gathers every Friday to march down High Street and liven up the night with their renditions of tunes like “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “St. James Infirmary” in hopes of bringing diverse culture and celebration to the typical downtown experience.
However, the band members have recently turned their goal into reality and taken action to impact their community and surrounding areas.
The band went on “tour” last May to several elementary, middle and high schools in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland to perform and try to instill an interest in music to children and teens.
“We’re working on another tour for this coming May, and we’d really like to go down to southern West Virginia and get into the places that don’t have these opportunities because the kids aren’t given a chance to actually play the instruments,” said John Fitzmaurice, founder of the group.
For their upcoming tour, the band plans to take spare instruments, mouthpieces and equipment for the kids to test and play in order to foster interest and creativity.
The group also plays at charity events.
“We never make a profit on any our gigs, and if we do get paid, the money goes back into the community or into travel,” said member Alex Higgins.
Higgins, a music education major from Belva, W.Va., said the group has played at the Morgantown Municipal Airport, the Met Theatre and elsewhere.
Despite being unaffiliated with the university, they practice once a week and play every Friday night, rain or snow. The members work hard to balance this commitment with their required work, but they all consider it a worthy effort.
“My friends and I have an appreciation for this kind of music, and we realize it can make a positive impact on Morgantown,” said Fitzmaurice, a music education major from Springfield, Va. “I really do think this ensemble is important, and it leaves places better than how we found them.”
Aside from impacting the Mountain State, the band is also admired in the place of their namesake—High Street.
Danielle Bouline, a fifth year senior MDS major from Severna Park, Md., hears the band every Friday from her bedroom window above Gibbie’s.
“I enjoy hearing them — being a fan of jazz — and it’s nice to see a little culture out on High Street other than what comes out of the typical college bars,” Bouline said.
Bouline enjoys the added entertainment on the popular downtown location. She believes the band promotes a different image for Morgantown as opposed to the stereotypical party school.
“I love the idea of street performers in our town,” Bouline said. “I wish there were more performances out on High Street. As a bartender here in Morgantown, I have witnessed plenty of open mic nights. It would be nice if you could see that any night just out on the streets. It could be a strong way of encouraging the musical arts here at WVU.”
Andrew Holbrook, a second-year student at the West Virginia University College of Law from Charleston, W. Va., has been listening to the High Street Jazz Band since he was an undergraduate student.
“I really enjoy what they do. It is definitely a unique style of entertainment,” Holbrook said. “When people think of WVU, they wouldn’t really think of a street performing jazz band playing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’”
Holbrook said he thinks the group adds a unique element to the downtown atmosphere that detracts from the street riots and house parties.
“I think they show that there is more to the nightlife of Morgantown than what is predominantly on the Internet or in the news,” Holbrook said. “If there was a larger following or more attention on the High Street Jazz Band, I think it could be very positive for the image of the university.”