By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Montgomery County High School Jazz band is heading south to play in one of the nation’s most popular music festivals.
They may be young, but their music has old-fashioned soul. And they’re taking that soul on the road to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
“They make me feel so proud, this has been two years in the making,” says David DiValentino.
A trumpeter and music teacher, DiValentino is the maestro behind the North Penn High School Navy Jazz Band. He lights the fire and the result is music you can groove to.
“It’s amazing what these kids can do when they are focused,” he says, “they come knowing their parts and get better with every rehearsal and every performance.”
The band’s hard work scored them a win last year at the SteelStacks High School Jazz Band Showcase. They did so well, they were invited to open for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at SteelStacks’ RiverJazz Festival.
That gig impressed DDBB trumpeter Gregory Davis, which led to the invite to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
“It’s the biggest gig of my career,” says DiValentino.
“I’m so excited,” says Emma Sweeney, a North Penn High senior and the only girl in the band. She plays the bass, controlling the groove, loving every minute of it.
“It’s great,” she says, “but we all work hard and we are very determined to do well.”
And there’s no doubt they will. The group practices twice a week and performs at community venues. They love it so much, about a half dozen of the 23-band members want to take up music as a career.
“It’s about letting my fingers flow with the music,” says Nabit Maquit, holding his custom made saxophone. The senior has played music for nearly a decade and plans to attend Loyola University in New Orleans. He’ll set foot in the Big Easy for the first time during the Jazz Fest.
“I’m estatic,” he says, “it’s very inspiring to be blessed with this opportunity.”
The band will join a roster that includes Pearl Jam and Stevie Wonder. They’ll take the stage on Thursday and then play at a New Orleans arts school on Friday.