BG High School bands secure top spots at Mt. Hood Jazz Festival


Bands from Battle Ground High School secured top spots at the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival held in Troutdale, Oregon on May 6 through May 8.

The Battle Ground High School advanced jazz band took home the top prize in their division, while the school’s combo jazz band received second place.

Band director Greg McKelvey said the three-day festival proved to be promising for the musicians. 

“With my group, we’ve had a great year,” McKelvey said. “Before Mt. Hood, we went to Pleasant Hill (Jazz Festival) and we came in first there as well. At every festival, I tell the kids regardless of if we win or not, we need to keep improving and to play better.”

McKelvey said it was hard to hear the band as they performed on the stage due to the setup of the acoustics, but once he listened back to the recordings, he was impressed by what he heard. 

“I was happy. The bottom line is we only have two seniors in the band, and regardless if we win or not, we always aim to play better than we did the previous time,” he said. “It’s been really great watching the students literally grow up musically in front of my eyes.”

At the festival, the bands played “Topsy” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” by Count Basie, as well as “Prelude to a Kiss” and “Royal Garden Blues” by Duke Ellington

“It was all hard stuff,” McKelvey said. 

He said the competitive festival featured a lot of great bands this year. 

It was also the first time his jazz band secured first place at the competition. 

“I started teaching in 1978, and Mt. Hood was the first jazz festival I ever did as a band director,” McKelvey said. “That year, I was teaching at Jackson High School and we came in third, so it was actually good 43 years later to come back to Mt. Hood and win it in our division.”

The band director also highlighted individual students who received Outstanding Musician awards. 

Alto sax player Avery Hemming received the award, along with Cienna Morrison, who played the drums. Piano player Andi Townsend and bassist Dalon Goodwin also received the award. 

“They’re all good musicians,” McKelvey said. 

McKelvey said Hemming was named the most outstanding student at the Pleasant Hill festival earlier this year, which featured between 700 to 800 musicians. 

“She’s been very consistent all year and (has) done an outstanding job as a saxophone player,” he said.

McKelvey also noted saxophone player Ian Arellano was one of only two seniors in the band this year. Arellano has won awards at almost every festival he took part in, McKelvey said.


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