Music department brings jazz culture to Cerritos College


John Glenn High School jazz on ensemble in its entirety during the Jazz Exchange Concert on Wednesday, April 5 held in the Student Center. Student solos such as Giselle Gaspar’s Alto Sax Solo delighted the audience. Photo credit: Dennis Osorio

Marck Parra and Dennis Osorio

The Cerritos College Music Department and The ASCC presented a Jazz Exchange Concert on Wednesday, April 5 held at the Student Center to a packed crowd of jazz enthusiasts.

The concert featured a lineup that included jazz ensembles from three neighboring high schools, John Glenn High School, Paramount High School and Bellflower High School and the Cerritos College Jazz Ensemble.

David Betancourt, director of bands, at Cerritos College, served as the director to the Cerritos College Jazz Ensemble during the show.

“We try to invite other schools to come in all the time,” Betancourt begins, “just to create this sort of energy that you saw tonight.

“Plus, they get to hear what we’re doing at the college, and there’s no admission fees, so it’s a win-win for everybody,” Betancourt said.

First on the bill was John Glenn High School of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, who were directed by Frank Anthony Hinojoz.

The students of John Glenn High School performed a plethora of jazz classics including “A Night in Tunisia,” “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Watermelon Man.”

The latter part of the school’s set included a jazz rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” and covers of two songs from the Star Wars universe, “Cantina Band” and “Jedi Rocks.”

Performing next was Paramount High School, who were directed by Angel Carmona.

Paramount added a Latin flair to its set list, performing the songs “La Fiesta” by Chick Corea, “Cubano Chant” by Ray Bryant and “Bellavia” by Chuck Mangione.

They were the band with the shortest set, as they only performed the three aforementioned songs.

The last of the high school bands was Bellflower High School, who were directed by Cerritos College alumni, Omar Vidaña.

Bellflower’s set was the most commerical out of all of the bands, as they performed jazz interpretations of 70s and 80s classics such as Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” Journey’s “Open Arms,” and a joint-medley of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie.”

According to Vidaña, the set was purposely intended to play out in that specific fashion.

“I love the jazz stuff, and we have our jazz stuff, but we have to make a connection with the people,” Vidaña explains. “I know it’s a school night, but I want them to kind of forget that and relive those precious memories from the 80’s and 90’s.”

Bellflower High School multi-instrumentalist, Conner Murray, loved the set his director chose, as evidence through his blistering, energetic performance on stage.

“I like to give back to the people, I like to perform for the people,” Murray says. “It’s more for everyone else and the experience than it is for me.

“I practice and rehearse for long hours to put an entertaining show for everyone to enjoy,” Conner ends.

And the crowd loved him — and they loved all of the performances of the night.

The crowd, mostly made-up of parents who were supporting their kids, were very courteous and respectful of each and every band throughout the entirety of the concert.

These types of concerts are performed on a regular basis throughout the semester.

If interested, according to Betancourt, the next exchange will be a concert band exchange scheduled for Tuesday, April 11, 7 p.m. also at the Student Center.