Music man brings jazz to Black Mountain
GOLDEN VALLEY - For students at Black Mountain School, it's reading, writing 'rithmetic and all that jazz.
Music program Director Michael Schreiber is working to expand the school's musical offerings, including the formation of a jazz band for students in grades 5-8, and an after-school choir program for those in grades 4-8.
He has divided the jazz band into fifth- and sixth-grade, and seventh- and eighth-grade groups.
"There's a pretty good jazz band at the high school, but we didn't have anything to prepare our students for it," Schreiber said. "This program will give them a chance at participating in jazz band at the high school level."
Students had their first after-school rehearsal the second week of January, right after they returned from Christmas break. The rehearsal consisted of one student on drums and percussion, three on guitars and three on brass instruments.
For the time being, the guitarists are playing their own or guitars they have borrowed from family members and friends.
"We raised funds for this and the program got lots of support from students' families and the community," Schreiber said. "We've got our books. Now, we're just waiting for the guitars to arrive.
"This is all new to the kids and I'm taking them into jazz with baby steps," he said. "The world of jazz is gigantic, and for most of the students, this is their first introduction.
"It's a lot of fun and the students are dealing with it very well. I'm a stickler for details, but they're eager to learn," he said. "I see a lot of talent here and I wish I could have started with them sooner. I would really like to see this program as good as any at the bigger schools. We have a smaller student population, but the kids really want to do it."
Schreiber grew up in Kingman, moved away to the East Coast and then came back home.
"I've always liked this area," he said. "My parents are here and my wife, Megan, works in an attorney's office in Kingman. It's very homey here."
Between Kingman and his last job in Maryland, Schreiber also put his own musical talents to use.
"I've performed in some big bands and with some of the greats in Washington, D.C., and with a jazz band in Flagstaff," he said.
"I played with Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin. It was great. As a performer, it's very exciting to both play and teach."
Schreiber still plays professionally, but his day job is with the students at Black Mountain.
"Last year, I was split between three schools, and that doesn't give you much of a chance to really work with the kids," he said.
"I talked the school board into letting me go full-time here and I think now we're going to take some students to auditions for the Northwest Regional Honor Band and Choir. I believe there's a good shot some of them will make it."
All of the six-graders are learning jazz from Schreiber and he's opening the program to grades seven and eight next year.
"We're having tons of fun. Once they learned the groundwork, it's been easy from there. They're so excited about the new things they're learning. I've promised them if they become good enough, I'll take the jazz band and the chorus to Flagstaff, and I'll deliver on my promise."
The program is experiencing success partly because it's after school, Schreiber said.
"It gives the kids something fun to look forward to. I'm really interested to see how it turns out," he said. "None of the students had a background in jazz and I wonder just how far they'll take it."
He turned to his students, explaining patiently that a bridge is a change that occurs in the music, that the drummer provides the foundation of the music, the bass guitarist lays down the beat and the brass section plays the melody "over the top."
"You guys are the stars," he said.
Picking up a trumpet, he demonstrated a few bars of "Killer Joe," the tune the band was rehearsing.
"I'll play this for you, so pay attention so you can play it back to me," he said, adding between notes, "It's very laid back."
Feet tapping, heads bobbing, the students followed along and then picked up where their teacher had left off.
"Give yourselves a hand," Schreiber said. "You got through the main statement twice. Now let's go on to the bridge. If you get really good, I might take you to play at all of the other grade schools."