Niles High School partners with area bands for annual outdoor jazz concert

Published 10:04 am Tuesday, May 7, 2019

NILES — When it comes to performing the jazz music they have learned in the classroom, Niles High School band director Josh Doe likes to get students outside of school auditorium and in front of their community.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to perform for a live audience,” Doe said. “It’s good to get kids doing jazz not necessarily in a concert hall, where people are moseying around and listening and enjoying food and the whole experience.”

With this effort in mind, Niles High School students will be partnering with high school and college bands across Berrien and Cass counties to perform for the annual Jazz on the River.

The concert will take place from 1 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Riverfront Park amphitheater. In the event of rain, the show will be moved to the Niles High School auditorium.

The event is free and open to the public. In addition to live music, food vendors will be available between 1 and 7 p.m.

In addition to Niles High School students, performances will be made by students at Brandywine High School, Niles High School Counterpoints, Berrien Spring High School, Dowagiac Union High School, Edwardsburg High School, St. Joseph High School and Southwestern Michigan College.

“It should be a really nice afternoon down at the amphitheater,” Doe said. “Bring the kids and grandpa and grandma. We are just happy to give bands some exposure and let them play.”

Doe said the high school has traditionally performed a jazz concert at the end of the school year, called Jazz on the River. However, it was not until two years ago that Doe said school officials thought to put it near the actual river.

For the students involved, Doe sees the performance as a learning experience for youth.

“Students get to share what they have worked on the whole year. They [also] get to share the art of jazz not just with the community, but other schools,” Doe said. “Every band director picks different music and has different styles that they pick to feature.”

True to the art form’s roots, Doe believes jazz is one genre of music that sounds best outside where the entire community can hear. 

“[Jazz] is the greatest form of American music. It originated right here and New Orleans,” Doe said. “It’s something I think we should celebrate. We love the diversity of the different types of music. You say the word ‘jazz’ and it encompasses probably 80 years plus of music.”

Since its inception along the Riverfront, Doe said the concert has grown every year, drawing in new bands to round out the performance. 

Doe advised those interested in hearing musicians to bring their blankets and lawn chairs to sit on for a casual evening outdoors. He also encouraged people to spend some time exploring downtown Niles.

“It is a free event and a great family environment for everyone to enjoy,” Doe said. “We hope a lot of the town comes out and checks us out. We like it because it brings more people to Niles and hopefully they will enjoy some local businesses.”