N.S. Jazz Band honored at Berklee, RIMEA festivals

N.S. Jazz Band honored at Berklee, RIMEA festivals

The North Smithfield High School Jazz Choir in front, from left are Nathan Marcelino, Nicara Mclaughlin, Amanda Connell, Sarah Pugliese, Lana Delasanta and Jamie Schmidt; second row, Nick Lemoine, Robin Hall, Nick Schmidt and Meghan Blanchette; back row, Brian Rowe and Director Regina Mcadam.

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Over the past two weeks, the North Smithfield High School Jazz Band has continued to forward the school band's reputation as a world-class act, receiving the highest rating possible at the annual Rhode Island Music Education Association Senior Division Jazz Festival, and then taking home the second place title at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival.

The first jazz event took place at the University of Rhode Island on Saturday, Jan. 17.

"The ensemble performed the most demanding program ever attempted and received 43/45 points from three independent adjudicators to attain the highest 'superior' rating," explained Band Director Fritz Benz.

The rating is the top honor at the annual event, where bands aim to impress the judges rather than compete with one another.

"You're performing against yourself," said Benz. Of the high rating, he added, "they don't give it to everybody. We've been very fortunate in our program to get that rating quite a bit over the past few years."

The band includes Ian Pascoe, Anucha DiPalma, Heather McClure, and Elizabeth Votta on alto sax; Jon Kearns and Lucas Mariotti on tenor sax; Brandon Hoppe on baritone sax; Ryan L'Heureux, Robin Hall, Nick Lemoine, Nick Hanoian, Alex Bourque, and Ben Allendorf on trumpet; Matt Ethier, Cole Hollis, Kyle Peterson, Alex Thurley and Kevin Crowshaw on trombone; Sarah Pugliese on piano; Brian Rowe on bass; Nick Schmidt on guitar; and Jacob Forbes and Nick Cloutier on drums/percussion.

The judges at the event provide feedback to each band, which the students then have the chance to apply to their act. According to Benz, the comments by this year's adjudicators were valuable, and he incorporated the feedback before the students' next appearance, at an event hosted by the Berklee College of Music.

On Saturday, Jan. 31 the band was joined by the school's Jazz Choir in Boston for the 47th annual Berklee High School Jazz Festival at the Hynes Convention Center. The group came in second place out of the 16 schools in their division.

"Both groups performed for a packed room and did a great job on challenging jazz literature," said Benz.

Senior Matt Ethier received the judges trophy for outstanding soloist in the band.

"The impressive thing about the second-place finish is that the music they played was very very difficult," said Benz. "We are allowed as a band to go in and perform anything we choose to perform. One of the most challenging things as a director is choosing how difficult to make the music and you wonder if the judges will account for that."

First place in the division was won by Canton High School in Connecticut.

The students three-song act started off with "Too Much of a Good Thing," arranged by Andrew Neu. Their second song was "Speak Low," a Latin ballad arranged by Bob Curnow.

"It's really kind of a jazz standard," Benz said.

The final song in the challenging set was "Hit the Ground Running," written by Los Angeles-based keyboardist and composer Gordon Goodwin of Big Phat Band.

"It's a very exciting and interesting arrangement," said Benz. "We did very well. The kids played a great performance."

Locals will have the chance to hear the award-winning group perform the same set live in a concert at the Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Center later this month. On Thursday, Feb. 26, the band will play in the Blackstone Valley High Schools Jazz Concert along with bands from Woonsocket High School, Mount Saint Charles Academy, North Smithfield High School, and Blackstone-Millville High School. Tickets for the event are $6 and can be purchased at online at www.stadiumtheatre.com/Event/9 .

The RIMEA performance can be heard at www.youtube.com and search for NSMS, NSHS Music.

The North Smithfield High School Jazz Band stands behind Director Fritz Benz. In front, from left are Jon Kearns, Anucha DiPalma, Sarah Pugliese and Lucas Mariotti. The second row includes Ian Pascoe, Nick Cloutier, Nick Schmidt and Brandon Hoppe; third row, Brian Rowe, Jacob Forbes, Kyle Peterson and Alex Thurley; fourth row, Nick Lemoine, Robin Hall, Heather McClure and Alex Bourque; fifth row, Ryan L’Heureux, Matt Ethier and Kevin Crowshaw; back row, Nick Hanoian, Ben Allendorf and Cole Hollis.


I know that song well and I must say it was an " Outstanding " performance after just watching the youtube video !!!

Congrats to all. Job well done.

Now that I'm a fan, I will see you all at the Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Feb. 26

I didn't know our jazz band was that good. Kudos once again.


The entire North Smithfield HS music program, bands and choirs, is one of the best in the state and perhaps all of New England. More than 50% of the High School student body is involved in music. All of the ensembles consistently score at the top of their division at a variety of music festivals. In addition, every year a significant number of NS High School and Middle School students are selected for the RI All-State music festival that is held in March. (I think there is an upcoming Valley Breeze article that will recognize those students)

In addition to this year's 2nd place finish at Berklee, the Jazz band finished in 1st place in 2013 and 2014. Not bad for a group that meets a couple of hours one night a week during the school year.

It is a testament not only to the quality of students that we have in North Smithfield and their commitment, but also to the commitment of time and energy that all of the excellent music professionals in the school district from Elementary through High School put into the program.

I hope that you do attend the Stadium Jazz night, all of the Jazz bands from the different schools work hard.

Music makes a difference!

It sure does !.

Thank you for all the additional information. The only thing I know about our schools music program is what I read in the Valley Breeze.

The students are very dedicated and talented I know but after listening, WOW !!!.

Hats off to them, parents and of course Mr.Benz.

I wish there was another medium to get the word out how good they are and where they can be heard.

Perhaps the town website. I will ask.

OK, I'm going to youtube to start my day :)

NS Music website: http://nsmusic.org. The site is mainly geared toward students and parents, but it does include links to past concert performances and the music department calendar including upcoming concert dates.

NSHS Symphonic Band will be playing at the RI College HS Band Invitational along with Ponaganset HS on Friday, Feb 27.


Thank you so much for the link. I feel that this is great information and should be on the town website for those of us that do not have children in the school system.

Thank you once again.