the_park_vista_high_school_web.jpgBOCA RATON — Swing Jazz is alive in the music programs of Palm Beach County Schools as demonstrated by the outstanding performances of the nine semi-finalists in the inaugural Battle of the Bands PBC held Feb 24 at Olympic Heights High School.

The final four in the Battle of the Bands PBC 2012 will compete for the high school and middle school Swing Jazz top spot sponsored by the Swing and Jazz Preservation Society on March 30 at 7 p.m. at the Spanish River Performing Arts Center, 2400 Yamato Rd., Boca Raton.

Of an original field of 16 public schools, 22 bands and more than 400 students, the four finalists are: Don Estridge High Tech Middle School vs. Omni Middle School, and Park Vista High School vs. Dreyfoos School for the Arts. 

Tickets to the event are free and may be picked up at the Spanish River Presbyterian School’s main office, 2400 Yamato Rd., second floor, from 9-5 p.m.

The competition judges will be Michael Fagien, publisher of JAZZIZ Magazine, Dr. Sam Lussier, professional musician and music educator and Jerry Fischer, nationally renowned musician and musical producer.

A random act of kindness started it all. Six men formed a non-profit, the Swing and Jazz Preservation Society (SJPS) to keep the music of their youth alive. For many years in Palm Beach County they produced six shows a year with top quality swing musicians. At the end of each season the extra money was put to good use by randomly giving away musical instruments or money for music supplies to public schools in their area. One such random act enabled a collaboration to begin between the SJPS and District 14 of the Florida Bandmaster's Association.

The contest itself was developed by District 14 members of the Florida Bandmaster’s Association, teachers who also love music and know what it can do to develop youth.

The association’s mission is to promote and support band programs in the state by providing opportunities for in-service growth, program evaluation, and student performance. Its guiding principle is that music holds a unique place in human existence and touches lives in ways no other experience can. Led by then Chairperson Mike Fraley, they created the rules, obtained the qualified judges and selected the music to be played. None of the band directors get paid extra to prepare or attend to the competitions.

In this the event’s first year, interesting student stories have emerged such as that of  Denise, the Asian girl with perfect pitch who has played piano since she was 3 years old. Also Nigel (alto sax) and Elgin, (trumpet) the two 15-year-old African-American fraternal twins who just started in the Boca High Jazz Band and are already champions, both having been selected to play in the All District Jazz Bands of PBC and recently Nigel was asked to play in the Florida All State Honors Band.

At each stage of the competition every participating school received prize donations from SJPS to their respective music programs, so that the grand total donated will be $22,800.

“Swing and Jazz is alive and well after watching the semi finals,” said SJPS President Rene Zerah, “We look forward to watching the four winners’ performances.”

For further information contact 561-829-3222 or email

WHAT: Battle of the Bands finals
WHEN: Friday, March 30 at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Spanish River Performing Arts Center, 2400 Yamato Rd., Boca Raton
COST:  Free; tickets may be picked up at the Main Office, from 9-5 p.m.
INFORMATION: Call 561-829-3222 or email


Vodcast of high school

Photo: Courtesy of Carlton Cartwright
‘Striking Cobras’: The Park Vista High School jazz band, directed by Aaron Snipes III, is among the final four competing for the Swing and Jazz Preservation Society’s top honors.