Hall High School’s 64th Pops ‘n Jazz Extravaganza Returns to the Stage on March 11

WEST HARTFORD, CT, February 14, 2022 – After a three-year hiatus, Hall High School’s acclaimed jazz bands, dancers, singers, and actors will take the stage for the 64th annual production of Pops ‘n Jazz. The show opens March 11, with additional performances on March 12, 17, 18, and 19. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. each night, and the curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. New this year, Pops ‘n Jazz will also present an abridged, family-friendly, Sunday matinee on March 13 at 2:00 pm. This performance will be 50 minutes long, and will feature a small sampling of what will be presented at the evening performances. 

Pops ‘n Jazz 2022 features more than 100 student performers, including the school’s Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Dancers, Choraliers (singers), and I Giovani Solisti (strings). The program, which varies slightly each night, offers an array of American jazz classics from all eras, performed in big band and combo settings, highly choreographed jazz productions, and featured solo performances. The show is known for its eclectic blend of music, ranging from traditional and progressive jazz, to pop-rock and Broadway. 

After the scheduled 2020 production was shuttered days before opening night due to the initial pandemic lockdown, Pops ‘n Jazz 2021 was presented virtually, using new recording equipment purchased through the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust and generous donations from the West Hartford community. This year, the program makes its triumphant return to live performances. The music selection and story reflect this theme of revitalization and a new beginning; songs are upbeat and fun, with feel-good jokes peppered throughout the evening. “Audiences will be delighted to be taken on a journey with the main characters as they ‘open’ a new show and restart their performing arts community after a long time away from each other and performing,” added Mr. James Antonucci, Hall High School’s Director of Bands and Jazz Bands. 

Pops ‘n Jazz is co-produced by Mr. Antonucci and Emmett Drake, Director of Orchestras at Hall High School and Conard High School. The show’s Staging Director is Spencer Bazzano, Hall’s Theater program and StageCraft teacher. The Choraliers are under the direction of Hall’s Director of Choirs Brett Boles, and the Jazz Dancers are under the direction of Choreographer Tessa Grunwald, assisted by Alida Lamagna. Mr. Bazzano shares Technical Direction for stage management, lighting, and audio with Christopher Bell. Additional assistance is provided by Hall High School parents, teachers, and staff. 

Guest Artists Make Special Appearances 

In addition to the student performers, invited guests from the ranks of professional musicians join them on select evenings. This year, featured guest artists include Tatum Greenblatt (March 12), Alexa Tarantino (March 17), Javier Colon (March 18), and Matt Parker (March 19). Participation of guest performers is supported by the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust. 

Tatum Greenblatt

Recognized by The New York Times as “a trumpeter of versatility and poise,” Tatum Greenblatt is widely regarded as one of New York City’s most in-demand musicians across a wide range of styles and genres. Tatum appears frequently with The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, in performances at Rose Hall, touring domestically, and has recently recorded on The 50’s: a Prism, Big Band Holidays Vol 2, and Ted Nash and Glenn Close’s Transformation. He has also been a member of the Grammy Award-Winning Mingus Big Band for over fifteen years, performing regularly in New York and touring internationally. 

Tatum toured has also performed and/or recorded with Blood Sweat & Tears, Dr. John, Christian McBride’s Big Band, Jimmy Heath, Sachal Vasandani, Christian Sands, Ulysses Owens, Emmet Cohen, Macklemore, Bastille, Grizzly Bear, Shaina Taub, Orrin Evans, Roy Hargrove’s Big Band, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, among many others. Tatum is also active on Broadway, having played on more than a dozen productions, including holding the trumpet chair for three years on Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. 

Outside of his performance career, Tatum is a dedicated educator. He currently serves on faculty in the Jazz Departments at The Juilliard School and Rutgers University, as well as many roles within the Education Department at Jazz at Lincoln Center. 

Alexa Tarantino

Alexa Tarantino is an award-winning, vibrant, young jazz saxophonist, woodwind doubler, composer, and educator. Alexa’s “high-octane [performance]” (Jazziz Magazine) and “sharply plotted but gracefully unencumbered straight-ahead jazz [compositions]” (The New York Times) establish her individual voice which shines through as a dynamic performer and educator. Tarantino was recently named one of the “Top 5 Alto Saxophonists of 2019” by the JazzTimes Critics’ Poll and nominated as a “Rising Star – Alto Saxophone” by Downbeat Magazine’s 2021 and 2020 Critics’ Poll. She has appeared with a wide variety of ensembles including the Wynton Marsalis Septet, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Cecile McLorin Salvant Quintet and OGRESSE ensembles, Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Generation Y and Big Band, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, and leads the Alexa Tarantino Quartet. Firefly, Alexa’s third record for Posi-Tone Records released April 2021, hit #6 on the JazzWeek charts. 

Tarantino is currently on faculty for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Youth Programs (High School Jazz Academy, Let Freedom Swing/Jazz for Young People) and represents the organization as a Clinician and Educator for various schools, festivals, and workshops. She holds a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies from The Juilliard School and Bachelor’s degrees in Jazz Saxophone Performance and Music Education from the Eastman School of Music. Alexa Tarantino is a Vandoren Artist and Yamaha Performing Artist. 

Javier Colon

Blessed with a stunningly soulful voice, an uncanny songwriting talent, a charismatic personality and a commanding stage presence, Javier Colon has already won the attention of an international fan base that’s embraced his personally-charged, acoustic-textured blend of pop, rock and R&B, an effortlessly distinctive style that he’s dubbed “acoustic soul.” 

Colon was introduced to millions of TV viewers as the winner on the inaugural season of NBC’s The Voice; singer-songwriter-guitarist Colon is set to take his recording career to the next level with Gravity, his fourth album and his first for Concord Records. 

The son of a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican mother, Colon emerged as a musical prodigy early in life. His gifts took him to the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music, where he founded an a cappella R&B quintet that performed at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater. Soon after graduating from Hartt with a degree in Music Education, he became lead singer of the neo-funk group EmCQ. Colon also spent two years touring with the Derek Trucks Band. Javier has released several well-regarded albums on various labels, and has enjoyed recent overseas successes, including a run of shows in Japan with renowned jazz saxophonist Dave Koz, and a series of concerts in Mexico and South America with Maroon 5 (whose frontman Adam Levine was Javier’s coach on The Voice). 

Matt Parker 

Matt Parker has shared his brilliance and love for music with audiences worldwide, from Cape Town, South Africa, to the Montreal Jazz Festival, from New Orleans to New York City; Matt’s career took off when he began performing with Maynard Ferguson. Parker has released two records under his name as a 

William H. Hall High School, 975 North Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06117 860-232-4561

saxophonist and improviser; both received Albums of the Year recognitions from Downbeat Magazine. As a composer, he’s the Musical Director for two cutting-edge immersion theater companies, creating original content. His work in film includes arranging, composing, and performing and is featured in John Wick. He tours regularly with Matt Parker projects, Postmodern Jukebox, and with numerous other artists. 

West Hartford Elementary and Middle School Students Share the Stage 

Younger performers are also invited to share the stage with the high schoolers during select shows. Hall Junior Artists from the district’s elementary schools will perform on March 11 (Norfeldt, Whiting Lane, Aiken, and Bugbee) and March 18 (Charter Oak, Morley, and Smith). Middle school singers and musicians will also join for special performances on March 12 (King Philip Middle School’s KP Singers and Bristow Middle School’s Big Band), March 17 (King Philip Middle School Jazz Band), and March 19 (KP’s Sixth Dimension). The involvement of these younger students with exemplary older students is part of the West Hartford Public School District’s effort to inspire excellence and commitment to the arts. 

Exceptional History, A Standout Community Strength 

Hall High School proudly continues the Pops ‘n Jazz musical extravaganza, which originated in 1958 with former band director Bill Stanley. Hall was one of the first high schools in the United States to integrate jazz into its daily curriculum, and Hall students have since performed around the world. 

The West Hartford Public Schools have received the Kennedy Center Award for Excellence in Arts Education in recognition of their program and have been asked to perform at the White House. The Hall Concert Jazz Band was one of fifteen national finalists in the 2018, 2019, and 2021 Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. They won 4 outstanding soloist awards (Tobey Siegel (drums), Noah Yontef (clarinet), Harry Epsein (trumpet), and Dylan Heinen (alto saxophone)), and two outstanding section awards (saxophone and trombone). The Concert Jazz Band won first place for the third time in 4 years at the Berklee School of Music Jazz Festival in Boston on January 26, 2019. At the National Jazz Festival in 2021, Concert Jazz Band and Jazz Combo I both won first place in their categories, Dylan Heinen won the Superior Musician Award (alto sax) for the small group category, and Harry Epstein and Amruth Niranjan won the Outstanding Musician Award in the large ensemble category. In 2015, Choraliers won the “Together in Song” regional choral award through WGBY in Massachusetts. 

Further, Hall’s talented students have gone on to do great things. Hall Concert Jazz Band alumni include renowned jazz musicians Kris Allen (alto sax), Jimmy Macbride (drums), Garrett Sayers (bass), Drew Sayers (sax), Richie Barshay (drums), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Erika von Kleist (alto sax, flute, and piccolo), Brad Mehldau (piano), Pete McGuinness (trombone), Noah Preminger (tenor sax), Alexa Tarantino (alto sax, performing at Pops ‘n Jazz 2022), and Gregg Kallor (piano). 

Through the years, Pops ‘n Jazz has welcomed some of the finest artists in the world to its stage in West Hartford, including Luis Bonilla, Phil Woods, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Jimmy Heath, Bob Mintzer, John Daversa, the NY Voices, Ted Nash, Wycliffe Gordon, Javier Colon (performing again this year), Kurt Elling, Curtis Fuller, and the Count Basie and Woody Herman Orchestras.

Ticket sales have opened online at http://hallhighjazz.tix.com. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students; tickets to the Sunday matinee are $10. Beginning February 28, tickets can also be purchased in person at the Hall High School box office. Box office hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 12 – 2:30 p.m., and Wednesday from 11 a.m. – 1p.m. Audience members will be required to wear masks at all performances. 

Like us on Facebook @popsnjazz, and follow us on Instagram @popsnjazz. For more information, please call the box office at (860) 929-5151or visit hallhighjazz.com.