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USD hosts Coyote Jazz Festival for high schools

USD hosted the Coyote Jazz Festival, a competition which features high schools from South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. The Festival showcases show choirs, jazz choirs and jazz bands. The Festival was an all day event on March 22nd. 

Christopher Kocher, the director of the festival, said the event has been going on since 1975 but due to COVID-19 they haven’t been able to host the festival since 2019. 

“We wanted an opportunity to bring groups to the campus. And by having the judges listen to the groups and give feedback, kind of a chance for groups to perform and get better from getting feedback from these experienced adjudicators,” Kocher said. “Of course, from the standpoint of the college in the music department, it’s always good to get students on campus. Hopefully they’ll come and visit and like it and maybe be a student here someday.” 

Kocher said there aren’t many festivals that include show choirs, jazz choirs and jazz ensembles and it’s a big deal for some schools to be able to provide that. He said it’s one of the components of the festival that it allows schools to bring multiple groups all to one place. 

“If they had a jazz band, a show choir and a vocal jazz group they could just take one trip on one day and not be missing three different days. That’s kind of one good thing about it, is that they can all come to one place and do lots of different things. And I think for the students in those multiple groups that can kind of be a need. They’re all over campus and getting multiple performances and that’s kind of neat,” Kocher said. 

Travis Walker, a choir director at Thomas Jefferson High School from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who competed in the 4A division said it was frantic at first and they had the event on their calendar since the beginning of the school year and some complications along the way. 

Walker said two weeks before the competition, he had not received anything and panicked.

“I found out that I wasn’t registered. I asked if there was any way they could fit us in. They were able to fit the show choir in but not the jazz choir. I was relieved that we got at least one group in,” Walker said 

Walker’s show choir, Jefferson Edition, competed in the 4A division and he said the day of the competition was a blur while trying to get his students ready for their performance.

“I told the kids not to sleep on the bus because I wanted to keep them warm for our performance. We warmed up on the stage which was nice to hear the acoustics,” Walker said. “We got changed and came back to support the other high school from Council Bluffs. (Thomas Jefferson High School) and overall I was pleasantly surprised we received first place in the 4A division.”

Keller Cannon, a student who performed in Abraham Lincoln High School’s Lincoln Volume, said it was a fun experience and was unique to most of the events they’ve done this year. 

“It wasn’t overcrowded, and it wasn’t mentally or physically exhausting. It was also nice to be able to go perform quickly and then be able to watch and listen right afterwards. I also liked it since it was one of the few events where we get to travel further out of the state than normal,” Cannon said.