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Music It's a jazz showdown in Pleasant Hill.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

If you think the elimination process on "American Idol" is just too slow, the Pleasant Hill School District has a musical competition with much quicker results.

"Idol" began in mid-January and it won't be over until the end of May. But during the Pleasant Hill Invitational Jazz Festival on Saturday, vocal and instrumental contestants start at 8 a.m., with winners announced that same day.

You could watch just the evening concert, or take in the whole day's events for the gate price of $7.

And here, the judges give feedback that helps the students improve. They are not just being nasty to entertain the audience at a performer's expense.

"It's a combination of competition, education, entertainment and inspiration," says Loren Stubbert, who still volunteers for the festival two years after his fourth and final son graduated from Pleasant Hill High. "There is just some great entertainment.

`If you like big band jazz, these high school students are amazingly proficient at it."

Throughout the day, professional musicians offer clinics on the various instruments. For a complete schedule of clinics and nonstudent concerts, go to

"I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if it wasn't for that program," says Shirley Andress Tendick of the Pleasant Hill music program and the festival. She graduated in 1982 and went on to earn a music teaching degree from the University of Oregon.

Today, she gives private lessons in her own studio. She also sings with the Emerald City Jazz Kings and in stage musicals.

Guests add something special

Each year, the festival brings a special guest. This year it's Mark Pender, the trumpet player on `Late Night With Conan O'Brien.' Past guests have included Mike Vax, the Kicks Band, Cami Thompson, Swing Shift and the Oregon All-Star Jazz Band.

Kris Kasten has directed the festival for the past three years. She says the event is almost at capacity, and that about 1,200 students will participate.

Kasten competed in vocal categories six times as a stu- dent.

"Back then, we had to staple together the program," Kasten says. "It's really a joint effort. You wouldn't be able to do it without the students helping."

In 1976, Jim Steinberger, who now teaches at South Eugene High School, started the festival as a vocals-only competition because there wasn't anything like it. Those involved say there is still nothing else like it.

"Most festivals of this size are run by colleges," Kasten says.

Steinberger directed it until 1985. Mike Wiggins took over and ran it until his death in 1997.

Kasten is the fourth director. She took over for Camille Noel, who retired.

"It's neat being part of it. It's kind of an experience you can't explain,' Kasten says. `The experience and the joy you get out of it once it's all over.

`It's amazing. It all pays off in the end."

Historically, Pleasant Hill's top vocal group, Ascensions, and jazz ensemble, Solar Jazz, have done well at all festivals they competed in, and not just in their hometown. But when the host school fares well, the rumor mill churns out tales of a fixed competition.

So, to remove any speculation, Pleasant Hill's top groups will not compete this year. Instead, they will perform with Pender during the 4:45 p.m. concert while judges are tabulating winners.

Stubbert says for a time, it looked doubtful that the festival would be able to continue because of Measure 5 budget cuts. But volunteers banded together to provide the manpower.

Money raised from concessions, entry fees and admissions help fund student travel to competitions. Ascensions took first place in a such a competition in Fullerton, Calif., over spring break.

A chance to learn from the pros

McKenzie Stubbert, one of Stubbert's four musical sons, has been back to the festival as an emcee and audience member since graduating in 1997. Now a composer and Oregon Festival of American Music instructor, he has fond memories of the festival and the music program.

"It's good for the kids to have big events that seem larger than them to be involved in," he says.

He appreciates being able to speak with professionals, and he continued to have good experiences with the festival after graduating.

"Their education and know- ledge was definitely valuable," he says.

There's no question that the festival enriches students, but those who have been around it say the public should also be interested - not just to support students, but because the event is actually entertaining, Andress Tendick says.

"It's a little bit of a jaunt out there, but it's worth it," she says. "Come out and check it out if you don't know what it's like.

`I think people would be pleasantly surprised. No pun there."

You can call Serena Markstrom at 338-2371 or e-mail her at


Pleasant Hill Invitational Jazz Festival

What: Middle and high school vocal and band competition. Guest artist is Mark Pender, trumpet player on `Late Night With Conan O'Brien.'

When: Competition begins at 8 a.m. Saturday; Mark Pender's concert begins at 4:45 p.m. and an evening concert featuring finalists begins at 7 p.m.

Where: Pleasant Hill schools, main events at 36386 Highway 58

Tickets: $7


Due to budget cuts, not as many smaller schools were able to register for 2006, but the festival still has strong statewide representation and several schools from Washington. The top two in each category will compete in the evening finals.

Schools participating: 39

Total prefinals performances: 75

Venues: 5

Middle school bands: 7

A bands: 3

AA bands: 5

AAA bands: 12

Instrumental combos: 4

Middle school vocal jazz: 8

Close-proximity miking: 13

Area miking: 10

Individual soloists: 13


Mark Pender, the trumpet player on `Late Night With Conan O'Brien,' will be the special guest at the Pleasant Hill festival. Vocal jazz groups have been a part of the Pleasant Hill Invitational Jazz Festival since it started in 1976.
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Title Annotation:Festivals; Annual festival brings in hundreds of students to play, learn and compete
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 14, 2006
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