The 150+ member Concert Band at Hall High School is the main curricular component of the instrumental (band) course offerings. Though meeting in three different periods (one of which is dedicated to all freshman band members solely), all the members combine for pep band games, a winter and spring concert, Memorial Day Parade, and a bi-annual trip. The band performs primarily level 4 and 5 symphonic band rep, and has a comprehensive curriculum that includes chamber ensemble music. The main chamber ensemble of the band program is the Wind Ensemble, and performs in a number of concerts in the community besides the spring concert.
The Concert Band was chosen as the showcase ensemble for the CMEA Conference. This was a distinguished honor for a non-selective ensemble, chosen out of many recorded submissions from across the state, first time for Hall bands since 2004! Read our CMEA Showcase Profile.
For more than six decades, the Hall High School jazz program has enjoyed the reputation as one of the finest and most respected high school jazz programs in the country. Originated in 1958 by former band director William Stanley, Hall was one of the first high schools in the United States to integrate jazz into its daily curriculum. Upon Mr. Stanley’s retirement in 1990, the jazz program continued under the direction of West Hartford’s arts supervisor Haig Shahverdian for 25 years. Hall’s director of bands, Jim Antonucci, currently leads the jazz program.
The award-winning Concert Jazz Band — named ”Best High School Big Band” by DownBeat Magazine — has performed for the president at the White House, appeared in the 2000 Ken Burns documentary miniseries, Jazz, and has shared the stage with countless jazz luminaries, including Jimmy Heath, Phil Woods, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Marvin Stamm, Bob Mintzer, Dionne Warwick, Kurt Elling, Curtis Fuller and the Count Basie and Woody Herman Orchestras. The jazz ensembles and individual members consistently take top honors at district, state and national music festivals and competitions. The Concert Jazz Band is a ten-time finalist at the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition at Lincoln Center and has repeatedly taken first place honors in its division at the esteemed Berklee High School Jazz Festival.
Several alumni of the program, including Richie Barshay, Joel Frahm, Brad Mehldau, Erica von Kleist, Noah Preminger, Gregg Kallor, Pete McGuinness, Pat Zimmerli and Alexa Tarantino, have gone on to careers as first-call jazz musicians while many others have earned prestigious scholarships to the nation’s top universities and conservatories for music and the performing arts.
The Hall High jazz program consists of two full jazz big bands which meet daily as a part of the academic schedule and three jazz combos which meet in the evenings. Combined, the jazz ensembles perform more than 35 times a year, including five Pop ’n Jazz performances in March and the biennial Eurotour performances in April.
Auditions for Hall High School jazz bands and jazz combos are held in January.
Pops 'n Jazz
Hall High School Pops 'n Jazz features more than 100 student performers from the school's Concert Jazz Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Dancers, Choraliers (singers), I Giovani Solisti (string players) and acting program. The program, which varies slightly each night, provides an array of American jazz classics from all eras, performed in big band and combo settings, highly choreographed jazz productions, and featured solo performances. The show offers an eclectic blend of music, ranging from traditional and progressive jazz to pop-rock and Broadway.
Invited guests from the ranks of professional musicians, including several Hall alumni, appear on selected evenings. Participation of guest performers is supported by the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust.
Pops 'n Jazz showcases up-and-coming young talent from King Philip and Bristow middle schools with special performances by the KP Singers, Sixth Dimension, King Philip Jazz Band and Bristow Middle School Jazz Band. Hall Junior Artists, outstanding elementary school musicians from Aiken, Whiting Lane, Bugbee, Norfeldt, Morley, and Smith elementary schools perform on selected evenings.
Pops 'n Jazz is produced by James Antonucci, Hall High School director of bands, and Emmett Drake, director of orchestras for Hall and Conard High Schools. Vocal direction is by Hall High choir director Brett Boles, and choreography and musical staging is by Tessa Grunwald. Technical direction is by Spencer Bazzano, stagecraft teacher and technical director for Hall and Conard High Schools, with technical support from more than 30 students enrolled in Hall’s fine and performing arts programs.
For two weekends in March, Pops 'n Jazz plays to an audience of more than 4,000 over five sold-out performances — plus a senior citizen matinee and a sensory — friendly performance — a West Hartford tradition that has continued to be a source of school and community pride for more than six decades.
Auditions for Hall High School jazz bands, jazz combos, and Choraliers are held in January. Jazz Dancer auditions are held in September.
Taking the Pops ’n Jazz show ‶on the road″ has been a long-standing tradition at Hall High School, and the experiences have touched the hearts of thousands of students during the past five decades! The Pops ’n Jazz cast has traveled to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Belgium. Eurotour has created myriad magical musical moments, indelible memories, and international friendships that will last a lifetime!
The performances in Europe are unlike any in the United States. The venues vary greatly, but always include lovely concert halls rich with history, vibrant in their sound and filled with an enthusiastic audience who shows their appreciation by sustained applause. A performance in a host town in Germany is usually a major event with dignitaries in attendance and is supported by the entire community.
Sometimes concerts are shared with other local jazz ensembles, or a school group. The most incredible and memorable experiences occur when students from both sides of the Atlantic perform together. They may not speak each other′s language, but through the gift of music, they are fluent in the most universal of languages. The contact with families in the host communities makes us all more cognoscente and sensitive to the culture of these countries. There are countless anecdotes with lessons that have been learned through the experience of foreign travel.
The historical and cultural opportunities are many, and each community strives to share the important features of their town. There is a great pride among the people that we visit and they are eager to show us their historical sites and talk about their history and culture. The members of Pops ’n Jazz have also been awe-inspired by experiencing many of the significant cultural and historic sites in Paris, France. The education begins with the musical preparation and continues as each aspect of the trip unfolds. Our students return home with a greater appreciation and understanding of other cultures and the people of Europe.