Moffat County High School jazz band hits all the right notes at Jazz Fest

Sasha Nelson
The Moffat County High School jazz band recently competed at Jazz Fest in Boulder
Sasha Nelson

At a Glance

What: Strings Music Festival Presents Mozart Masters Beauty Slap with Steamboat Springs and Moffat County High School Bands

Where: Strings Music Pavilion, 900 Strings Rd. in Steamboat Springs

When: Thursday, April 20, 7pm

Cost: Free, but tickets are required. Get them at

— Moffat County High School jazz band brought home an excellent rating from the Mile High Jazz Fest last month and are now setting their sites on a performance in Steamboat Springs and next year.

“Jazz Fest went well. It was nerve-wracking, so we went a little fast,” said freshman trombone player Courtney Haskins.

This was her first Jazz Fest, and she was impressed with the range of music played by the many bands competing.

“Music really helps people, it’s universal. Anyone can like it, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are or what language you speak,” Haskins said.

Similar to athletic competition, musical performances motivate band members to work as a team.

“There isn’t one person that defines the group… everyone has to be conscious of the people that you are playing with… in our trombone section there are four of us, and we need all four of us to make a balanced section,” said Christa Bird, a senior who plays bass trombone.

The band fosters cooperation between students.

“Whenever I need help I ask my peers,“ said Chase Davis, a freshman who plays a trumpet inherited from his grandfather. Davis credits his peers with helping him learn to play it.

Later this spring, the peer-to-peer collaboration will bring athletic rivals — Craig and Steamboat Springs high schools — together for a workshop and performance with the band The Beauty Slap.

The Beauty Slap is an “electro-thunder-funk band,” according to the Strings Music Festival website.

Strings’ educational program — “Mozart Masters” — enhances Yampa Valley students’ musical knowledge through educational opportunities with professionals.

In this setting, students say the lessons taught by band are very different than those taught by team sports.

“Steamboat has been one of our rivals athletically, but in band it reminds us to have a different prospective. We understand each other as band members,” said Olivia Neece, a junior alto saxophone player.

The lessons taught through band also cross into academics.

“It challenges your brain in a different way, not like math or language. I can go to band every single day and learn something new about history or literature that I never would have learned in another class,” Bird said.

Next year’s band will have new members and a new director.

It’s not an easy transition for students or Band Director John Bolton, who has taught many of them since the sixth-grade.

“(Band is) the reason I come to school. So many people have gone through a lot of stuff and they have come to Mr. Bolton in the band and have so much fun and forget all their worries,” Davis said.

The juniors, under Bolton’s direction, are planning ahead.

“I think the hardest load is on the juniors… I think it is our responsibility to hold the band together and keep everyone positive,” Neece said. “Support and backing from the community this next year with a new director would give us the chance to be successful.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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