Hall High School Jazz Band and Sherman Irby

For more than six decades, the Hall High School jazz program has enjoyed the reputation as one of the finest and most respected high school jazz programs in the country. Originated in 1958 by former band director William Stanley, Hall was one of the first high schools in the United States to integrate jazz into its daily curriculum. Upon Mr. Stanley’s retirement in 1990, the jazz program continued under the direction of West Hartford’s arts supervisor Haig Shahverdian for 25 years. Hall’s director of bands, Jim Antonucci, currently leads the jazz program.

The award-winning Concert Jazz Band — named ”Best High School Big Band” by DownBeat Magazine — has performed for the president at the White House, appeared in the 2000 Ken Burns documentary miniseries, Jazz, and has shared the stage with countless jazz luminaries, including Jimmy Heath, Phil Woods, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Randy Brecker, Marvin Stamm, Bob Mintzer, Dionne Warwick, Kurt Elling, Curtis Fuller and the Count Basie and Woody Herman Orchestras. The jazz ensembles and individual members consistently take top honors at district, state and national music festivals and competitions. The Concert Jazz Band is a ten-time finalist at the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition at Lincoln Center and has repeatedly taken first place honors in its division at the esteemed Berklee High School Jazz Festival.

Several alumni of the program, including Richie Barshay, Joel Frahm, Brad Mehldau, Erica von Kleist, Noah Preminger, Gregg Kallor, Pete McGuinness, Pat Zimmerli and Alexa Tarantino, have gone on to careers as first-call jazz musicians while many others have earned prestigious scholarships to the nation’s top universities and conservatories for music and the performing arts.

The Hall High jazz program consists of two full jazz big bands which meet daily as a part of the academic schedule and three jazz combos which meet in the evenings. Combined, the jazz ensembles perform more than 35 times a year, including five Pop ’n Jazz performances in March and the biennial Eurotour performances in April.

Sherman Irby was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As a high school student, he played and recorded with gospel immortal James Cleveland, later graduating from Clark Atlanta University with a bachelor of arts in music education.

In 1991, he joined Johnny O’Neal’s Atlanta-based quintet and, in 1994, moved to New York City and recorded his first two albums on Blue Note Records. Irby toured the United States and the Caribbean with the Boys Choir of Harlem in 1995. His first stint with the JLCO was from 1995 to 1997.

An alum of Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead, Irby recorded and toured with Marcus Roberts, and has served as a member of Roy Hargrove’s ensemble, Elvin Jones’ ensemble, and Papo Vazquez’s Pirates Troubadours.

Irby has served as Regional Director for JazzMasters Workshop, artist-in-residence for Jazz Camp West, an instructor for Monterey Jazz Festival Band Camp, and a former board member for the CubaNOLA Collective.

In the early aughts, Irby formed Black Warrior Records, releasing five acclaimed recordings. Since rejoining the JLCO in 2005, Irby has become a key arranger and been commissioned to compose new works including Twilight Sounds, his Dante-inspired ballet Inferno, and Musings of Cosmic Stuff, inspired by his interest in science fiction.

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