The Rhythm of Success: How the WSHS Jazz Band Prepares for the Real World


Molly Yuan

White Station jazz students showcase their talents on the corner of Patterson and Central at the University of Memphis. This was their first out-of-school performance of the semester.

The White Station Jazz Band took the spotlight in a community arts showcase held at the University of Memphis on Saturday, Oct. 5.

The event included performances by the different fine arts programs of the university, as well as fine arts programs from other schools. The White Station Jazz Band was one of many groups to receive an invitation to perform–an opportunity that equipped the group with real-world playing experience.

“I think any time students get a chance to go out into the public, they get a chance to see what it’s like to be in front of the audience that’s not just their parents, and it really prepares them for everything in the world. It prepares them to deal with stress that’s on a different level,” band director Brian Sims said.

For many high school band students, their musical experience is strictly limited to functions within the school: in-class rehearsals, after-school practices, and scheduled concerts. However, for the White Station Jazz Band, it is normal for their band experience to extend far beyond the classroom and into the community.

“We’ve been rehearsing a lot of these tunes since last year, and every time we get the chance to play a gig, we just get ready typically a few days before,” said Braden Jones (12), who plays the drum set in jazz band.

These gigs allow jazz artists to not only soothe their nerves for future performances, but also to refine a crucial skill in jazz: improvisation.

“Knowing tunes and being able to present them in this way on the fly, so to speak, and being able to play together with different musicians–that happens all the way around the world, not just here in Memphis,” said Dr. Jack Cooper, the jazz coordinator at the University of Memphis.

The chance to perform comes at the cost of consistent hard work and dedication, something the Jazz Band has become accustomed to under the direction of Sims.

“Mr. Sims knows the role of each individual player, and he understands the capacity you have to have to go forward, because it’s a whole different setting from a concert band. And it takes more work,” Jones said.