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RMHS hosts 39th annual Jazz in the Meadows event

John Hersey High School's Second Band performs a high-tempo set.

Published March 11, 2024

For 39 years, music students, instructors and professionals from across the Midwest have gathered for a special day of jazz at Rolling Meadows High School.

Now the 2024 edition of Jazz in the Meadows is in the books—with a few twists.

This year’s Jazz in the Meadows took place in February and again featured jazz bands and combos from all District 214 high schools, plus middle school and high school bands from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. The all-day event, billed as the biggest jazz event in the Midwest, was under the direction of Elliott Hile. Hile took over this year as director of both RMHS bands and Jazz in the Meadows from long-time leader Chris Buti, who retired last year after more than 25 years running the event. 

“Talking with parents, students and directors, the consensus was that this year’s event went really well,” Hile said. “We traded hands successfully.”

The event offers students “a plethora of experiences,” Hile said. Band students have a chance to perform, but also to learn. This year’s edition featured clinics with judges, professional jazz musicians and educators—as well as jam sessions to give students a chance to work on their improvisation skills.

The day also featured performances by two professional groups: New Nostalgia, a Chicago-based “indie-pop-rock-fusion group,” Hile said, and the Paul Dietrich Jazz Ensemble, a more traditional jazz band. Hile said the professional musicians are a special draw for the community members who also attend the event. 

Hile purposefully had his RMHS students play some of New Nostalgia’s set list in the months leading up to Jazz in the Meadows; members of the band then worked on the pieces with the students. “I figured, we’re the ones hosting the party, so the focus isn’t on our bands, but how can we build on this connection and provide an extra-special experience for our students?” he said.

The 2024 Jazz in the Meadows competition produced a tie for the event’s Grand Champions: Class 4A winner John Hersey High School’s jazz band, under the direction of Hile’s brother Spencer (yes, that’s true—read more HERE), tied with Beloit Memorial High School from Wisconsin. Hersey trumpet player Jack Obrebski was named Outstanding Soloist among the Class 4A bands, and Hersey drummer Jacob Boba was named Outstanding Soloist among the High School Second Bands. Wheeling High School took first place in the Combos division.

“I am so thankful that we have the support in the District to host a festival like Jazz in the Meadows, events like this are why District 214 is a leader in music in the state. It goes to show the value our community places on music and music education—and the kind of experiences we want our students to have,” Hile said.

Hile and the rest of the District are already looking forward to the 40th anniversary Jazz in the Meadows, scheduled for March 1, 2025. Mark your calendars now!