The Crescent Super Band wants to give something back to the GAM Foundation.
That's why the group will perform for the GAM Foundation fundraiser Friday. The GAM Foundation produces the JazzSLC at the Sheraton concert series. (For the schedule of the 2008-09 series, see accompanying story.)
"The GAM founder Gordon Hanks has always made sure that students get discount tickets to those shows," Crescent Super Band director Caleb Chapman said. "He has done so much for keeping jazz alive in Utah. And it's not only the music that benefits, but the students get to see these great jazz artists and experience the music. Plus, Salt Lake gets the benefits by hosting the shows.
"So, this concert is our way of returning the favor," Chapman said.
Playing with the Crescent Super Band is "Saturday Night Live" band leader Lenny Pickett and saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who was a member of the Chick Corea Elektric Band. Marienthal has performed with the band twice, and while Pickett has coached the band, the show Friday will mark his first time playing with the band.
"It's funny how small the music world is," Chapman said. "And I've known these guys for a long time. I told them about the GAM Foundation and what they have done and told them about what I wanted to do and they thought it would be fun."
The Crescent Super Band, made up of high school students, emerged from The Music School, a school Chapman created in 1999 in American Fork.
"When we started the band, we just practiced," Chapman said. "But it was like practicing football without playing a game. So, I found some contests and entered them."
Well, that was the key to breaking the band out of Utah and into the international scene.
One of the biggest boosts came in 2007 when the band competed in the International Jazz Education Organization competition.
"I got a call and they told me that we didn't win but got runner up," Chapman said. "I was ecstatic. But the more the guy talked, the more I realized that they miscategorized us. He kept saying 'collegiate' and I asked him what he meant. He said, 'college, of course.' And then I said, but we're comprised of high school students.
"There was silence on the other line and then he said, 'Can I call you back in a few minutes?' And he hung up."
When the guy called back, he told Chapman that the Crescent Super Band did, indeed, win the high school division of the International Association for Jazz Education, Outstanding Service Award.
Since then, the band has garnered an array of awards including Utah Best of State: Best Instrumental Group and Best Youth Performing Group; Downbeat Award for Outstanding Performing Arts Academy Big Band and Best Female Vocalist; Utah Best of Stage BOSS Award for Arts and Entertainment.
"The awards are always a surprise," Chapman said. "But they are good for the kids. And while most of them won't pursue music as a career, the experiences and music will stay with them throughout their lives."
This year is already looking to be busy for the band, Chapman said. Not only will it play the fundraiser, but it will play the Park City Jazz Festival, the Iridium Club in New York, the Midwest Clinic in Illinois, the Telluride Jazz Festival in Colorado, France's Vienne Jazz Festival, Italy's Umbria Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
"I'm very proud of these kids," Chapman said. "They make us proud. Who would have thought that these kids from conservative Utah would make people take notice?"
If you go
What: Crescent Super Band, Larry Pickett, Eric Marienthal
Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $50