All that jazz: Second annual jazz festival held in Livingston for students, professionals

Samantha Hill

High school performers and seasoned professionals come together Friday to celebrate learning and creating jazz.

At the second annual Livingston Jazz Festival, students from local and state high schools, a middle school and two colleges will all visit Livingston to perform various jazz pieces as well as take master classes from nationally-recognized musicians from New York, Chicago and Montana.

Garret Stannard the Park High School band teacher put the festival together as a way for kids to learn about jazz and as a fundraiser for the group.

“I wanted to show kids that even if you live in Livingston, Montana you can still get these kinds of experiences,” Stannard said.

He said before last year, the students were selling trash bags to raise money for equipment, uniforms and trips. He believed that the performers should doing more with music to raise that money.

“I am not teaching them how to be door-to-door salesmen,” he said, adding that the students have worked hard to help make the festival possible.

Last year, the festival was held at the Attic, garnering about 150 audience members to watch as saxophonists, guitar players and keyboardists played. This year, with the event at the Livingston Depot, Stannard hopes to make a bigger event with more schools and artists involved.

There will be 30 students from the Park High School Jazz band participating in the festival as well as Sleeping Giant Middle School, Belgrade, Bozeman, Missoula and Billings schools. At the Shane Lalani Center for the Arts, each school will perform in front of various panelists, who will then critique their work. There will also be master classes taught by the artists, and an opportunity to watch the musicians play and ask them questions.

One of the seven guest artists coming to the event is Bozeman guitar player Craig Hall. Hall has been teaching jazz lessons for a number of years and began offering classes to five students in Livingston last year. He is also a player for the band Ridgeway Collective, formerly known as Swingley Jazz trio, which plays at the Murray Bar once a week.

Hall said he began teaching those students because they started their own group, The Five. He began to offer tips to help them smooth out their performances.

He said he will be critiquing performers on Friday. One big thing he notices is that some students don’t listen to enough jazz to really understand how they are supposed to sound.

“Its hard to have them really listen to jazz,” he said.

There will be a performance at 7 p.m. that day at the Livingston Depot. The Park High ensemble will perform three pieces “Night in Tunisia,” Blue Rondo a la Turk,” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” After that, the professionals will perform a song together which they just learned and have barely performed with each other. Stannard said this was to promote spontaneity.

“It will be interesting to see what they can do,” Stannard said. “They might be hard on themselves, but for us it will be jaw dropping.”

There are just a few tickets left for the Friday night show at the Depot. To purchase tickets, visit