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Swingin' Hard at R.K. Downs

Posted: February 11, 2008 11:18 a.m.
Updated: April 13, 2008 2:03 a.m.
The smooth sounds of jazz filled the Performing Arts Center on Saturday as music lovers spent the day listening to the many jazz bands that performed during the R.K. Downs Jazz Festival.

The annual event, now in its 33rd year, brought performers from multiple local high schools, along with Cal Arts' Latin jazz band and the College of the Canyons Jazz Ensemble.
The jazz band from University of Nevada, Las Vegas also made a stop at the Valencia center to mark their first performance at the jazz festival.
The all-day festival, which began at 10 a.m. and went until 4:30 p.m. at the College of the Canyons facility, brought in between 50 and 75 jazz fans, families and music directors from the local area and as far away as Downtown Los Angeles.
KC Manji, music director for the festival, said one goal of the event was to create a relaxing atmosphere for guests to enjoy the music.
Additionally, Manji said they hoped to give local music vendors exposure by allowing them to set up tables in the lobby during the festival.
On stage and next to a picture of R.K. Downs, the ensembles performed lively songs with lengthy instrumental solos that were well-received by the audience.
Manji said that Downs, the former music director and instructor who died over a decade ago, was "an excellent musician" and "an advocate for students."
Dirk Fischer, who served as COC's jazz director and festival coordinator for 27 years, remembered the festival in its early years, when only Canyon High School and Hart High School performed.
"We would come to play and to hear each other," he said.
He noted that the festival has always been planned for the beginning of the spring semester because Downs wanted it to be before the band competitions began in April and May.
Fischer said the festival was first known as a "get together" and was never designed to be a contest or competition for local ensembles as all school bands have always been invited to attend.
Since its beginnings, Fischer has watched the festival grow to include more performers and bring in more guests. This year's program included just under 10 jazz ensembles.
Regardless of how many people participate in the festival or come to hear the jazz music, Manji and Fischer see the annual event as a way to bring the music community together.
"It's to unite the instrumental music community," she said.
The Symphonic Band & Jazz Ensemble will be next to take the stage at the Performing Arts Center. That performance will be on March 21 at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door.


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