Jazzing It Up: Emma Hedrick, Luke Belcher, Will Rice
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Q&A with the Main Street Jazz Band members junior Emma Hedrick, freshman Luke Belcher and freshman William “Will” Rice
Can you describe your personal history with music? Are there any jazz performers who inspired you?
Hedrick (EH): I joined the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, and we did some jazz music. We learned “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington, and I really liked that song, and I started listening to other jazz by singers like Ella Fitzgerald, and it just became a part of my identity. I found a vocal teacher, and then eventually I just learned that I wanted to perform the music the way I liked it, so I could start my own band and decide what we do instead of being part of a choir or required to do something a certain way.
Belcher (LB): I was more classical in the beginning, but as I moved on to middle school, I tended to have more of a liking towards jazz music, and I wanted to try it out. So, I joined the Main Street Jazz Combo. It all started in seventh grade when I went to a jazz camp. I really liked Elvin Jones and Art Blakey, but there are tons of inspirational drummers that I look to.
Will Rice (WR): I played for the jazz band at the middle s
chool for two years, I played some jazz guitar before that but not much and then I’m in another jazz group that I joined in eighth grade.
Why did you create this combo?
EH: I started it my freshman year when my private teacher urged me to start my own band. Eventually, I met Luke and his brother Aleck (‘16).
Your combo has already performed at high-level stages, such as Porchfest and even a concert at the Palladium. Many professionals work their whole lives to get to venues like the Palladium: what prompted your band to get to that level?
EH: I think it’s just a combination of many things, including luck and being at the right place at the right time. We would get a gig, (a live musical performance), and after our performance, people would come up afterwards and express interest in having our group perform for them. It’s basically just by word of mouth for the most part and knowing connections; we make ourselves available. As we started to perform more and more, we got more contacts and became more popular.
How does your group find time to practice? Being high schoolers, life is pretty stressful.
EH: The band is a priority for all of us, which is why I think we somehow find the time to practice. Besides, all of our band members are really talented, and we’re able to arrange our pieces and just work on our parts at home.
What kind of an impact does being part of a student band have on you?
EH: I like how it’s student-led because each member of the band gets to put their own ideas into everything that we do. We all want to be here, and collaborating just really allows us to show our abilities in the way that we want them to be shown. Being able to work together is really important, especially with jazz.
LB: It definitely does help to play with people. I’m really lucky to be able to play with such great players, and it shows you how to fit in, because when you’re playing jazz, it’s usually not solitary, and working together teaches us to sound together. You have to stay connected and have a feel for what’s going on.
WR: The best part about being in a student-led group is that it’s laid back enough that it’s fun, but it’s also really cool because Emma has got her leadership down so we still get a lot done, and I just think that’s cool.
Do you have any mentors that guide your jazz combo?
EH: Everybody in the combo takes lessons. I take voice and piano lessons at Butler University, and I sometimes ask my teachers come up with ideas and arrangements and bring them to the group. I’m sure that band directors Michael Pote or Chris Kreke, and any of the other CHS band teachers would also be willing to help us. Last year, they really supported us by giving us a chance to perform at Jazz a la Mode 2016 and respected what we were doing.
LB: I take lessons from Craig Hetrick, who is also a professor at Butler University, and sometimes, I ask him particular questions I have about how to fit in with the combo, especially when it comes to rhythm. I’m also really thankful for getting opportunities to perform at school events like Jazz a la Mode. The show last year was nearly sold out. It’s great to be supported by the CHS band teachers.
Could you describe your upcoming performance at Porchfest?
EH: I have performed at Porchfest for the past two years. This will be my third year at Porchfest. We sent some MP3s and YouTube videos to audition for this competitive event. Basically, there are multiple performances happening at people’s porches and driveways. It gets a lot of hype because it’s really supported by the City of Carmel. It usually gets around two or three thousand people overall. This year, we’re going to bring in a guest artist, sophomore Charlie Herman. People can expect to see our usual aesthetic, but with shorter performances with the intention of people walking around; however, we will still have solo portions to show our individual talent.
LB: I think it’s great that we get to perform at a venue where professional bands play. It’s really nice to share the music that we’ve been practicing with audiences.
What are your plans for the future?
EH: In the future, we are going to continue to expand our repertoire and add a greater variety of songs to our set. We also hope to increase the number of gigs we play and potentially play more gigs in Indy. Overall though, it is really important to me that in the future we don’t lose our identity as a classy jazz combo.