By Jade Artherhults
Picture this: It’s 9 p.m. on Friday night and you’re out on the town with your friends, when suddenly, you hear the melodies of a tuba, trombone, and various other percussions marching down the street. You stop and for a split second, you forget where you’re at. Are you on the legendary Bourbon Street? Nah, you’re still on High Street and the music you hear is from none other than the High Street Jazz Band.
Chances are you’ve heard the band if you’ve ever been downtown on the weekend. Their soulful New Orleans-inspired jazz tunes are infectious to those who surround them. The band attracts everybody around them as they march up and down High St.
The band has been playing together since 2010, according to John Bryant, the band’s manager. Two of the founding members, Larry Schwab and John Fitzmaurice, met while they were members of West Virginia University’s marching band. Fitzmaurice, a tuba player, and Schwab, a trumpet player, met on the practice field for the band. Fitzmaurice was playing a lick of Bourbon Street when Schwab heard him and joined in. Then, a connection was made.
Then, they began recruiting members to join them.
“I had a class with John and he asked me, ‘Hey, do you play trumpet?’ and I said yes, so he told me to come out, so I did,” says vocalist and trumpet player Alex Higgins.
Bryant, who also plays with the band, said he saw the band performing at a local bar. “I saw them performing at Gibbie’s, then we did the march out [on High St.], and that was it. I was hooked,” he said.
High St. Jazz Band consists of over ten members who all play different instruments. Anything from tubas, sousaphones, drums, and even banjos can be heard on the streets of Morgantown. However, they don’t limit themselves to only playing on High St.
“We play on High St. every Friday night. Then we have about three or four gigs during the month,” Bryant said.
They also travel the state once a year to various public schools for an educational music tour. The tour is meant to inspire and provide students with the opportunity to learn about music. With a number of public schools cutting funding of the arts, now is as an important time as ever to spread the love of music.
“The band’s main focus is music education,” Bryant says. “We try to hit at least six to eight schools, which isn’t much in the 55 counties of West Virginia, but we make an impact,” he says.
The band’s mission statement sits on a shelf in their practice space, which is a room in the basement of the Monongalia Arts Center.
“This is something fun to do in our free time, but we always keep our mission statement in mind,” Bryant says.
Interested in catching the High St. Jazz Band in action? They’re playing at the MAC this Thursday at 7:30 pm. All proceeds from the show go to the MAC.
And, of course, they’ll be on High St. on Friday night.