Glenelg teens hit it big with jazz

Television: MPT to feature spot on high school group with Ken Burns' series

January 07, 2001|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

For more than 20 years, the Glenelg High School Jazz Ensemble has made a name for itself, swingin', scattin' and be-boppin' its way to scores of awards and performances at international festivals in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

But now the talented group will show off its chops to an even broader audience, in a show that will be presented in connection with Ken Burns' latest documentary, "Jazz," which begins at 9 p.m. tomorrow night on PBS.

In conjunction with the 10-part series, Maryland Public Television will air a half-hour spot called Jazz Reflections. The first segment, "The Beat Goes On," is about the Glenelg High School Jazz Ensemble's celebrity and history.

"We wanted to bring it home to Maryland," said Adele Rush, project director for MPT ArtWorks. "To show how lively the jazz scene is right here, right now."

Elliott Wiley, an independent producer, suggested that Glenelg be featured first on MPT's show and put the show together.

"A few years ago, my father-in-law convinced me to go hear a high school band play, and I went to hear Glenelg. They were opening for Maynard Ferguson," Wiley said.

"I was like, `Wow! This is a nice experience.' And I've been going to their concerts now for the last three or four years. Every year, they are awesome," he said.

Consistent musicians

Wiley said the 20-member band is phenomenal because of their consistency. Even though the student body turns over every year, the quality stays high.

"The fact that [band director] Barry Enzman sustains this band year after year after year," Wiley said, "it's amazing."

"And here is this guy teaching jazz to a bunch of white kids and it's an African-American form of music, let's face it. This story presented some different kinds of things for us to explore," he said.

Burns - whose award-winning documentaries "The Civil War" and "Baseball" sparked nationwide conversations about not just the title topics, but also history, race and culture - launches his latest series, "Jazz," tomorrow night on PBS.

It's 18 hours long and will air over 10 nights.

The half-hour episode on Glenelg's band, which premiered last Thursday night and continues tonight and several other evenings this month, features some of those same elements, Wiley said.

"For them to have that kind of history," Wiley said, "you know Barry Enzman knows his stuff."

Band members agree.

"We're just your average public school," said senior Shannon Emerson, who's played trumpet for the ensemble for four years. "But through Mr. Enzman's hard work and dedication and what he's brought to us, this school has established a tradition."

Language of jazz

Woodsy Glenelg may not be the "coolest" place in the state of Maryland. But students say Enzman brings "hip" to the high school and adds "soul" to the students.

During rehearsals, Enzman has his own language.

For example, "A one. Two. Uh huh do dooie!" means "1, 2, 1, 2, 3!"

"Boom bup bup boop bwaaah HA!" means "louder at the end there, kids."

Enzman, 48, bobs his head when he's talking that language, with his goatee and short ponytail. He snaps with his whole arm, not just his fingers, to keep time.

And his entire body wiggles and taps. Even his lips dance.

The band members learn to understand him. Then they learn to understand jazz.

"I don't think jazz has a color. I feel like you can swing no matter who you are," said Enzman, who's taught at Glenelg for 25 years.

"Jazz has such a soul and kids are much more perceptive than what people think they are," he said. "They can tell if you are genuine. And if they know that, then you can light a fire in them."

Senior alto saxophone player Bernie Huddlestun said Enzman teaches the members to really "feel" music.

"There's just a whole feel to jazz that represents so many emotions. There's the whole thing with improvising; whatever you're feeling, you can just express yourself at that time," Huddlestun said. "It takes a little bit of time to get used to it, but it's worth it, because you really get to love it."

"The Beat Goes On" will air at 10:30 tonight on MPT. The show can also be seen at 11 p.m. Friday and 10:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and Jan. 22.

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