The Mountlake Terrace High School Jazz Band has performed at every Starbucks Hot Java Cool Jazz since Darin Faul became band director in 1998 – except one. And that single year they weren’t invited may have been the most important.
“What changed after not being in that one year was a desire on my part to make the event unimaginable without Mountlake Terrace, and that what we present is the most talked about and most remembered part of the night,” said Faul, seated in his cluttered office in the school 15 miles north of Seattle. “I believe that’s what the students feel, because I tell them about that year. Hot Java Cool Jazz is very important to us. We think carefully about the program we present.”
The 23-member Mountlake Terrace band will take the stage at Hot Java Cool Jazz again tonight (March 17) at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, as the high school showcase is staged for the 22nd year. They’ll be joined by area bands from Bellevue, Edmonds-Woodway, Garfield and Roosevelt high schools.
Starbucks contributes all proceeds from ticket sales to support the music programs of participating schools. Last year, more than $60,000 was donated, bringing the total raised since 1995 to more than $500,000.
“Starbucks is committed to providing opportunities for young people to succeed, and nowhere is that commitment more important than in our hometown,” said Erin Combs, manager of Starbucks Community Partnerships. “For Starbucks, Hot Java Cool Jazz is a moment to celebrate the incredible passion and talent of young people in our local community along with Seattle’s rich musical heritage.”
Maintaining a rich legacy
Faul is quick to acknowledge the impact Seattle’s jazz legacy has had on him individually and the kids he’s worked with for almost two decades. He referenced Jackson Street in the city’s Central District, where two dozen jazz venues operated in the late 1940s and legends like Quincy Jones and Ray Charles found work early in their careers. He also credits generations of music educators who’ve maintained Seattle’s status as a jazz hotbed that’s heavily represented at prestige events like New York’s Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. This year, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds-Woodway and a third past Hot Java Cool Jazz participant – Mount Si High School – are among only 15 schools from around the nation to receive invitations.
“When I first got this job, I was frustrated,” Faul said, recalling being a 24-year-old hired midyear into a chaotic situation. “I was really young and I didn’t know what I was doing. Nobody was helping me. And then I realized that all I had to do was ask people at other schools and they would help. Even when the schools were competing, there was no withholding of information.”
A first-time performance
For the 20th Hot Java Cool Jazz, Faul reached out to several graduates of the program, encouraging them to submit original compositions to perform at the event. Another year, he commissioned a graduate who is a fulltime composer to write a piece for the evening. This year, he enlisted sophomore Kieran Faris to create an original piece, “Sin Nombre” (“Untitled”), for the showcase.
“Even in middle school, he was writing music,” Faul said. “In the fall I said to him, ‘Have you thought about writing something for the band? It would be great if you wrote something specifically to present at Hot Java Cool Jazz.’ He said he’d think about it. Then January rolled around and I said, ‘Hey, did you ever…?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m working on it.’”
The 16-year-old drummer, who participated in Hot Java Cool Jazz last year as a freshman, is excited to present what he describes as an ominous six-minute Latin jazz piece inspired by Stan Kenton’s “Malagueña.”
“It’s amazing,” Faris said. “I’m kind of in shock. I’ve been writing music for a long time, but I never imagined I’d have an opportunity to show this many people what I can do.”