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Written By: Tiana Dick and Sabrina Wong

The Wellington Jazz Academy has been a big part of our lives for the past five years.  As students of Carmella Luvisotto, we can say that we have received the best musical education possible.  We have had the opportunity to visit countless jazz festivals including: The Envision Jazz Festival, The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Musicfest Canada Nationals, and The West Coast Jazz Festival here at Vancouver Island University.  Our bands at Wellington start to feel like family when we go on band trips. We practise long and hard and work with each other at lunch hours and after school to make sure everyone knows their part and feels secure in it. Being part of a band is serious team work. Long bus rides and countless rehearsals give us time to work things out and brings us closer together.

There are many combos that develop outside of the bands that give the individual players a chance to shine when we attend jazz festivals. The opportunities we get as individuals are very promising when our hard work is recognized.  We can be adjudicated as a combo or trio, and even as a soloist. When we go to the various festivals, Wellington always has a good reputation.  Our name is known as far away as Europe, with students coming from even Germany to be part of our program. Our particular band was awarded “Best Junior Band” at Surrey Envision Jazz Festival, and were invited to play on main stage at Lionel Hampton Jazz festival in our Grade 10 year.

This last year, we were awarded “Best Senior Jazz Band” at Surrey Envisions Jazz Festival as well as being invited to play on main stage at Lionel Hampton again. Wellington students often reach the highest standard when they are asked to take part in Hamp’s club as soloists at the Lionel Hampton Festival. This past February, five Wellington students made it to Hamp’s Club and two bands made it to the main stage performance. These are huge honours in Idaho.

In band class we have the opportunity to solo; it makes us think on our feet.  We learn to listen to the melody played by the band and improvise, and it helps us gain self-confidence.  Performing on stage and having the audience clap for us gives us a sense of satisfaction and pride to be a part of something great. Carmella Luvisotto has taught us more than just music. She works hard to develop in us, the skills even we don’t know we have sometimes. She encourages growth by having us attend workshops and she even brings in the pros for us to listen to, and work with. We have two times a year where a pro comes and spends a couple days with us. These times are called “Artists in Residence.” We can take private lessons at these times as well. Mrs. Luvisotto also teaches us how to receive both the good and the bad from adjudicators and encourages us with both. We learn from adjudicators even when the response is not what we were hoping for.

As Grade 12 students graduating this year, we are very aware just how much we are going to miss the Jazz Academy at Wellington.  We can’t thank Mrs. Luvisotto enough for all she has done for us!