“They have an awesome horn section, our jazz band has an awesome horn section, so it’s a really good fit. They also happen to be awesome in every other way, too. So, it was a no brainer.”
This is how music instructor Cliff Eveland, of Petaluma High School, explains why he chose the Sacramento funk-rock-rap band Joy & Madness as the headliner for this year’s big music program benefit show at the Mystic Theatre. As usual, the school’s own Varsity Jazz Band will be the opening act. According to Eveland, this year marks the 13th consecutive year that the jazz band has performed in the show at the Mystic, with different Bay Area rock bands chosen every year as the headline act.
Not surprisingly, it’s consistently proven to be one of the students’ favorite events of the year.
“For our students, who are used to performing in the school’s multipurpose room most of the time, getting to perform on the Mystic stage is a night-and-day difference,” Eveland explains. “In the multipurpose room, we’re playing acoustically, without microphones, and the general ambience of the room isn’t what anyone would call inspiring. But at the Mystic, everybody’s got a microphone, there’s a professional sound guy mixing it all at the board, and they are standing where some of the greatest musicians in the world have stood and played. It’s a really neat experience for the students.”
As for how he became familiar with the music of Joy & Madness, Eveland says he has an ace in the hole as the director of the Petaluma Music Festival, another big annual fundraiser that takes place at the fairgrounds every summer.
“I get to meet the musicians and players from 14 or 15 bands every year,” he points out. “So, I have a pretty good idea what bands are out there, and which ones would be a good fit for this show at the Mystic. And yes, having a strong horn section lends itself better to the basic vibe of what we do.”
Asked what the Varsity Jazz Band will be performing as its own part of the show, Eveland responds with one of those distinctive where-do-I-begin chuckles that are indicative of a high school music teacher who creates numerous set-lists for dozens of performances, parades and concerts featuring at least six different ensembles, bands, and choruses.
“Let’s just say they’ll be performing in a variety of styles, with quite a bit of Duke Ellington and Count Bassey, and a little Latin jazz, and whatever else we think of,” he says.
Eveland says that over the years, the concert has become a large draw, not just for parents and supporters of the school, but for folks in the community who’ve learned that the high energy night of music is one of the more uplifting events of the post-holiday season.
“If you like music, you like to dance, you want to help kids who are at the beginning of their musical careers, then you’ll want to come out and support it,” he says. “A lot of these are going to be playing in other bands as adults. This is just the beginning. Maybe you’d like to catch them now, so some day you can say, ‘I saw this musician when he or she was just a kid, and now look at them.’ Our Varsity Jazz Band, right now, has at least one kid I know who is definitely going to go professional, and several others that are good enough to, if they choose that path.”
PLANNING TO GO?
What: PHS Varsity Jazz Band benefit concert featuring Joy & Madness
When: Saturday, Jan. 18, 8 p.m.
Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.