Portable classroom No. 146 was bursting with sound.
The Manatee High School Jazz Band was warming up for its next-to-last practice before Sunday’s big gig with the Sarasota Pops Orchestra, and it was loud in their makeshift bandroom.
“I hope I’ll be able to hear something Sunday,” joked band director Jim Bruce.
What he heard Tuesday morning was nostalgic.
The Jazz Band struck up “Harlem Nocturne,” the sensuous classic covered by Big Band icons such as Duke Ellington, Harry James and Glenn Miller.
It is just one of the Big Band favorites they’ll perform with the Sarasota Pops at 3 p.m. Sunday for “Days of Glory — The Music of World War II” at the Neel Performing Arts Center at the State College of Florida.
“I can’t wait,” said senior baritone saxophone player Kevin Callahan. “I like the whole Big Band feel. It’s fun to listen to the old stuff.”
They’ve been doing that since the start of the school year, not long after Bruce received the Sarasota Pops’ invitation.
“It’s an honor to be part of this concert,” said Manatee’s longtime band director. “It means a lot to the kids and they’ve put a lot of hard work into it.
“Stylistically, this music is more difficult and they’re not as familiar with it. The style of the big bands of that era was different, and to be able to capture the essence of the way they performed is more challenging.”
They’re up to it.
“I like Big Band a lot. Duke Ellington, especially,” said junior pianist Lauren Walter. “It’s a different style of music, a different way to express yourself. And I get the opportunity to play with professional musicians who also love jazz. It’s a great chance to learn from people who know how to play.”
Michael Frazier has come to enjoy Big Band music and appreciate the history behind it.
“It’s a nice change of pace, it’s good to go back to where our music came from and I feel it has more meaning,” the senior alto saxophone player said.
“Because during this era there weren’t computers, iPods and all that. They had music and the music helped them overcome what was going on in World War II.”
Michael Ware finds Big Band’s musical style to his liking, as well.
“It lets you exaggerate your emotions,” said the senior trombone player.
“In ensembles you’ve got to keep it within a group. Here you can bring out yourself more. Big band is more individual. One guy can stand up, play a solo, and everyone knows it’s him and can feel the accomplishment.”