Hall High School’s 65th Pops ‘n Jazz Extravaganza Returns to the Stage on March 10

Come sail away with Hall High School’s acclaimed jazz bands, dancers, singers, and actors for the nautical-themed 65th annual production of Pops ‘n Jazz. The show opens March 10, with additional evening performances on March 11, 16, 17, and 18. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. each night, and the curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. Pops ‘n Jazz will also present an abridged, family-friendly matinee on Sunday, March 12, at 2:00 pm. This 50-minute performance will feature a small sampling of what will be presented at the evening performances.

Pops ‘n Jazz 2023 features more than 100 student performers, including the school’s Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Band, 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 a triumphant return to live performances in 2022 after two years of pandemic-related shutdowns and virtual performances, Pops ‘n Jazz 2023 promises to thrill audiences once again with a “PnJ on a Boat” theme. “Audiences this year will be treated to our performers sailing through one of our most incredible lineups of guest artists, an amazingly strong and dedicated group of musicians, dancers, and actors, while upholding and adding to the 65-year tradition of Pops ‘n Jazz,” noted 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 Technical Director is Spencer Bazzano, Hall’s Theater program and StageCraft teacher. The Designer/Builder is Dave Lewis, and the Audio Engineer/Designer is Rob Trelor. The Choraliers are under the direction of Hall’s Director of Choirs Brett Boles, and the Jazz Dancers are under the direction of Choreographer Kate Morran, assisted by Hall alumnus Joseph Fierberg. 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 Lakecia Benjamin (March 10), DeWitt Fleming Jr. (March 11), Marcus Printup (March 16), and Larry Gareau and Nathan Edwards (March 18). The March 17 performance will celebrate “Local Legends” from the West Hartford community, including appearances by Jen & Kris Allen and Sean Nelson. Participation of guest performers is supported by the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust.

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 10 (Norfeldt, Whiting Lane, Aiken, and Bugbee) and March 17 (Smith, Charter Oak, and Morley). Middle school singers and musicians will also join for special performances on March 11 (King Philip Middle School’s KP Singers and Bristow Middle School’s Big Band), March 16 (King Philip Middle School Jazz Band), and March 18 (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, performing at Pops ‘n Jazz 2023), 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), 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, Kurt Elling, Curtis Fuller, and the Count Basie and Woody Herman Orchestras.

Online ticketing system with ASSIGNED SEATING.
Ticket sales will open online on February 13, 2023 at https://hallhighjazz.com or https://pnj.ludus.com/. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students; tickets to the Sunday matinee are $10. Beginning February 22, tickets can also be purchased in person at the Hall High School box office. The box office is open Wednesday-Friday 2/22-3/3 and Monday-Friday 3/6-3/17. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 12 – 2:30 p.m., and Wednesday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

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