Hoover Huskies Are Also Some Cool Cats

Hoover jazz students take part in a master class with members of the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

Hoover jazz students take part in a master class with members of the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

Hoover High School is officially known as the home of the Huskies but it’s also becoming widely known as the den of some pretty cool cats. They’re the ensembles that jam and tour and study and practice under the direction of Randy Hoepker, and lately they’ve been especially busy.

Last Friday the Hoover jazz combos participated in the University of Iowa Jazz Combo Festival along with counterparts from Cedar Rapids Washington and Iowa City High. They enjoyed master classes with University of Iowa faculty members and Ben Allison, a professional jazz bassist from New York City.  After a full day of learning, they performed for a packed house at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City.  As a reward for their strong work at the festival, they were invited to perform at the prestigious Iowa City Jazz Festival next summer. That will be Hoover’s second performance at the Iowa City Jazz Festival.

The next day the Hoover jazzers participated in a master class back home with the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra from New York City.  The SHO is one of the finest Latin jazz ensembles in the world, boasting four Grammy nominations and two Grammies, and is led by Oscar Hernandez.  One notable member and teacher who worked with Hoover students was Mitch Frohman, a 25-year member of the great Tito Puente Orchestra.  Students learned stylistic elements in Afro-Cuban music and later attended the orchestra’s performance at Shelsow Auditorium on the campus of Drake University.  The Spanish Harlem master class and show tickets were provided by Civic Music Association. This was Hoover’s sixth master class in partnership with CMA.

The busy weekend of learning and performing by the Hoover combos was capped off with a gig for a festive crowd at the Lower Beaver Neighborhood Association holiday party, performing a mix of Latin and holiday favorites.

“As I watched the students in these experiences and asked them to reflect today in class, I have to tell you that I witnessed some remarkably thoughtful observations,” said their hep bandleader, Hoepker.  “These experiences have clearly been transformational.”

No surprise then, that the Hoover jazz combos have also been selected to participate in an Iowa Arts Council-supported major grant project, entitled Duplicitus.  Dr. Damani Phillips, Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies and African-American Studies at the University of Iowa, will work with Hoover students on music from a new double album that “aims to develop a new generation of jazz listeners by using hip-hop as a vehicle to present jazz in a modern context…”  Phillips is one of the top jazz alto saxophonists in the country, earning consistent critical acclaim for his recordings and live performances.

Hoover Jazz students include:

  • CLARINET: Lisa Heeren
  • SAXOPHONES: Marissa Van Elsen, Ian Fefchak-Robinson, James Munoz, Hannah Draper, Devon Ashton, and Jackson Brantley
  • TRUMPETS: Ashton Johnson, Nick Bainter, Sadie Clarke and Joshua Henry
  • TROMBONE: Ben Tallman
  • GUITAR: Matthew Bourland and Riley Minard
  • BASS: Max Tensen and Ezra Halter
  • PERCUSSION: Kate Mitchell, Jaden Wilson, Jason Koromo and Ja’Von Willis
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