All-State Jazz Festival participants (from left) Jarrett Gulden, Lucas Steinberger, and Benji Pugh, with LA Band and Jazz Band Director Liz Matta.

On Saturday, January 5, talented high school jazz vocalists and instrumentalists from all over the state came together at South Portland High School to perform a final concert in the 2019 Maine Music Educators Association All-State Jazz Festival. 102 students representing 34 schools from Presque Isle to York were selected through an audition earlier this fall to participate in five different jazz ensembles: The SSAA choir, SATB choir, Jazz Band, Honors Jazz Band, and Jazz Combo. These four ensembles were directed by world-class conductors who traveled to Maine from New York to California to work with the young musicians. Many teacher and parent volunteers came together to make this festival a success.

The Maine Music Educators Association (MMEA) is a State Unit of the National
Association for Music Education (NAfME) and it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. With 400+ members including working music educators, retired teachers,and prospective collegiate students, MMEA is a vibrant organization in our state. Formally founded in 1917, MMEA is the oldest recognized state music educator organization in the country.

Three juniors from Lincoln Academy: Lucas Steinberger (bass), Jarrett Gulden (baritone sax), and Benji Pugh (trumpet) were selected for the All State Jazz Festival after a competitive audition in October, 2018. They spent three days staying in Portland and practicing with their designated groups, and ending the weekend with the January 5 concert.

Lincoln Academy Band Director Liz Matta, who teaches instrumental music at LA and directs the jazz band program, accompanied the musicians to the Festival. She says the experience helps develop both individual musicians and the LA jazz program as a whole. “Students are able to work with different conductors and play alongside students they may have never met. When music is the common-denominator, human connections happen quite easily.”

The experience benefits LA’s jazz program because, according to Matta, “students come back having had a different experience than they are used to. The experience almost always helps the student grow musically. Our ensembles benefit from the growth of the students who went to the festival because the other students listen, balance and blend with the new abilities of those who went.”

This year’s LA participants agree that playing with other serious jazz musicians was the best part of the festival. “Being surrounded by amazing musicians all day long was incredibly valuable,” said Benji Pugh.

Lucas Steinberger said, “one of the best parts of any honors festival is giving students opportunities to play with peers who share a similar passion for music. The festival environment both allows students to reach their full potential by playing with talented musicians, as well as challenging students to rise to the level of their peers.”

The next chance to see Lincoln Academy jazz musicians perform is at the annual Jazz Night and Dessert Auction on Friday March 29 in the LA Dining Commons.