Three Bay Area high school bands are headed to New York this weekend for the highly competitive Charles Mingus High School Competition, named for the celebrated jazz bassist and composer.
The Berkeley High School Jazz Combo, Sacramento’s Rio Americano High School Jazz Combo, and the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Big Band and Combo are competing against nine other groups from around the country.
"Anytime you go to New York is exciting," said Erin Putnam, the ensemble manager for the SFJAZZ Big Band and Combo. "But the Mingus competition is different from some other festivals, where you get points for how perfect you are. At Mingus, you get points for how big you go."
Mingus was known for his genius as a bandleader, and for often losing his temper. He died in 1979 at the age of 56, but his widow Sue Mingus has carried on his work through a nonprofit, which sponsors the high school competition.
"I just really connect with Mingus," said Glynnis McNamara, a 17-year-old baritone saxophone player and senior at Middle College, a high school program at the College of San Mateo. "Because it captures the moment of spontaneity -- of being in the moment of something passionate."