The MVAOCOU Jazz Coalition will be performing at the Iowa Jazz Championships on Tuesday, April 2, after they received a wild card invitation by the Iowa Jazz Championship Committee. This is the second straight year MVAOCOU has received a wildcard invitation.
There are 15 bands invited in each of the four classes in Iowa. Two jazz bands from each of the six Iowa districts earn automatic invitations. The final three invitations are determined by the committee based on results from jazz festivals throughout the year.
To qualify for a wildcard invitation, a band must place third in their district qualifying jazz festival or place first in an independent jazz festival with at least two bands performing. MVAOCOU qualified for consideration with their performance at Morningside contest.
MVAOCOU band director David Kovarna said earning fourth place at district qualifier also made an impression on the committee due to the strength of the bands in their district.
The Jazz Coalition is a much more experienced group this year as only four members are new to the performance stage and they have taken a big step this year.
“The tunes we performed this year were much more difficult than the tunes we played last year. It has take much more effort from the students to prepare and improve their parts,” Kovarna said. “Every jazz festival performance has improved from a technical, stylistic, and musical aspect.”
The group has had four different clinicians come in to work with the band as Kovarna tries to invite people who he looks up to and considers to be among the best jazz educators in the area to work with the students.
“I love the fact that we are constantly developing,” Kovarna added. “It has been a great asset to have a core of members that know the level of performance we want play with every time we take the stage.”
The Jazz Coalition started the contest season with a third place finish out of 11 bands at the Triton Jazz Festival.
The group had a bit of a setback at State Jazz Festival, earning a Division II rating from the judges. Kovarna said they worked to glean as much as we could from the critique the judges gave us and continued to improve.
The Jazz Coalition earned first place out of two bands that were able to make it to Morningside Jazz Festival due to weather. This finish qualified MVAOCOU for a possible wildcard invitation to the Iowa Jazz Championships.
MVAOCOU’s district qualifying jazz festival is the Northwest Iowa Bandmasters Association Jazz Festival at Le Mars High School. The top two bands earn automatic invitations to the Championships.
“Our classification (2A) in northwest Iowa is loaded with quality jazz bands,” Kovarna said. “I thought we would be lucky to place in the top five. The students had their best performance to date and earned fourth place (out of 13 bands), but no automatic invitation to IJC.”
The most exciting festival of the year for the Jazz Coalition was the Coyote Jazz Festival at the University of South Dakota.
“I was completely blown away by our second place (out of 12 bands) finish, mostly because we placed higher than the Iowa Jazz Championships Class 2A 2018 Runner-up and the Class 3A NWIBA first place finisher. It is fun to play well and be recognized among some very good jazz bands,” Kovarna said.
The group typically rehearses every Monday and Friday morning from 7:30-8:20 a.m. The students are willing to put in some extra rehearsals by coming in on weekends or days when there is no school to work with clinicians whose schedules are sometime limited.
The students continue to take more and more ownership for their development and learning.
Kovarna said his primary hope going into the Jazz Championship is that there is a greater level of comfort with the whole experience, ”been there, done that.”
“We all perform better when we are comfortable with the venue or situation. Our only goal is to have our best performance of the year every time we play,” Kovarna said. “It doesn’t always happen, but that’s our