Santa Clarita Valley schools took several top spots at the “Super Jazz at the Ranch” competition hosted by West Ranch High School.
The late-May competition hosted 32 jazz groups from schools all across Southern California, with SCV schools placing in the top three spots in three of the seven divisions.
Being the host, West Ranch did not participate in the competition. However Brian Leff, director of jazz studies at West Ranch, said the competition wasn’t about where a school placed, it was about the education that students got from it.
“It’s a big jazz festival that’s been going on for a long time. Here at West Ranch… We’ve got bands from schools from all over Southern California,” said Leff. “We’ve got guest performances. We have adjudication so the bands come in, they get comments and feedback from the judges.”
Leff said having guest performances from a professional group, Los Angeles-based jazz group TriTone Asylum, and from the Hart District Jazz All Stars, is part of the educational purpose of the event.
“I think it’s cool for the students that are coming to see a really high-caliber-level group and you know, learn from them and to get inspired by their performances,” said Leff.
With this being the first “Super Jazz” event since the pandemic, Leff said he was pleasantly surprised.
“The kids worked really hard during the pandemic. I was pleasantly surprised with how great they’ve been sounding this year,” said Leff. “They want to be here. They’ve been working really hard and playing really well.”
Alexander Tran, an alto-saxophonist and performer at the event, said although studying music was easier in person, the pandemic provided other opportunities.
“I mean, it’s been off and on. Yes, it was a lot easier in person, but overall, I did grow over that span of time,” said Tran. “I definitely [had] more time to practice and try different things. Overall, yeah, I definitely got better.”
The following are SCV schools and their placing in the competition:
• First place, middle school division: Rancho Pico Junior High School.
• Sixth place, novice division: Castaic High School.
• First place, intermediate high school division: William S. Hart High School.
• Third place, intermediate high school division: Valencia High School.
• Second place, advanced high school division: Saugus High School.
• Fourth place, advanced high school division: Golden Valley High School.