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VJC Zoom Hang for VJC webpage

NOTE: The application period for all instruments for the 2024 VJC Alumni Band is now OPEN. You may apply HERE. The application window for most instruments closes on May 22, 2024. However, if we do not have enough performers on a particular instrument (trombone, cough, cough), we will keep the application window for that instrument open as long as necessary to ensure a full ensemble.


The ensemble will rehearse on Tuesday evenings (7:00 to 8:45 p.m.) for five weeks, from May 28th through June 25th. The concert is scheduled for Saturday evening, June 29th (7:00 p.m.) 

ABOUT the VJC Alumni Band


Founded in 2016, the Valley Jazz Cooperative has consistently provided a wonderful space in which younger musicians could explore their creativity together in a  supportive, nurturing environment. With the VJC's move to Scottsdale's Ravenscroft in 2021, we also found we had a fantastic location in which to host an alumni band. In early July 2022,  the VJC Alumni Band debuted with a performance in Ravenscroft Hall. In late June 2023, the VJC Alumni Band performed again, joined by guest artists Stephanie Tateiwa (soprano and alto saxophone) and Oliver Gomez (bass), to a large, appreciative audience.

Our annual plan is to form an Alumni Band in the early part of each summer, rehearsing from late May through the end of June, with a performance each year at the end of June. That time frame has been chosen in the hopes that recent HS graduates who are going to college out of state can have an opportunity to be back with us then, should they be returning home to AZ for the summer. (FYI...There will usually be about five weeks of rehearsals before a performance, so it isn't a massive time commitment.)

Any VJC Alum in good standing is welcome to join and play, including all VJC Online ensemble performers who never got to play with the group live/in-person during the height of the pandemic. On certain instruments—such as saxophone—we will likely have more than enough interest. From an instrumentation standpoint, if we end up having two dozen saxophonists interested in playing, we'll have to figure out what that really means (be it rotational playing on a concert or some other solution). Russell Schmidt will endeavor to be as fair as possible in deciding how we handle situations where there may be too much interest.

To accommodate as many people who want to participate as we can, while still keeping things open and equitable for longtime (former) members who would like to return to our VJC musical community, we have created a few guidelines to help us most fairly achieve our goals. Here are our two main guidelines governing participation in 2024:

• We have a hierarchy for acceptance/participation in the VJC Alumni Band, prioritizing individual involvement:

1) Alums who have been out of HS for one or more years receive the highest priority for acceptance/participation.

2) Alums who have just graduated from HS receive the second tier prioritization for acceptance/participation.

3) Alums who will be returning to HS in the fall receive the lowest priority for acceptance/participation, likely to help complete sections in the big band. (Please know your presence would be welcomed, and we would be very grateful for your participation. But we also hope you understand that this program is primarily intended for alums. So if your instrument is one that we already have enough college-age alums playing, then we will ask you to step aside or move to a different instrument, allowing the longer-term alum to play.)

The bottom line? We'll do our best to involve as many interested parties as we can.

• When we have an overabundance of interest on a particular instrument, here is how we determine who participates in the VJC Alumni Band:

1) The primary factor in determining placement is, of course, the three-tier hierarchy mentioned above. 

2) The secondary factor in deciding whether you might be placed will be one's availability for consistent rehearsal attendance.

3) Additional factors for placement will include:

     • how long you were a Valley Jazz Cooperative program participant (including VJC Online activities) when a high school student,

     • how early one applies for this year's Alumni Band (assuming availability for rehearsals and the performance date),

     • the consistency and quality of one's participation dating from when one was originally in the VJC (in high school days), and 

     • the consistency and quality of one's participation in any previous iterations of the Alumni Band (if applicable).

The latter two ("consistency and quality") stipulations aren't principally about how well you play (or played). They are more about the "VJC Alum in good standing" point mentioned above. If you were consistently a positive contributor, had a solid record of attendance, and faithfully endeavored to get better from rehearsal to rehearsal, we will find a way to welcome you back (unless we are dealing with something like a saxophone avalanche).

We are doing this together to make great music and have a great time together. And consistent, positive participation—back when you were in high school, and also in your ability to commit to regular rehearsal attendance now—will help us achieve all our goals.

To provide more general information about the start-up process, the performance, and to clarify the planned rehearsal schedule:

••• Rehearsals will be on Tuesday nights. The first rehearsal is scheduled for 05/28/2024 and will continue on during the next four Tuesdays: 06/04, 06/11, 06/18, and 06/25. (So there will be five rehearsals in total.)

••• The rehearsals will run from 7:00 to 8:45 p.m. Performers will be able to enter the Ravenscroft building starting at 6:45 p.m. each Tuesday. Please note the building is always locked unless a concert is imminent, so Russell Schmidt or another VJC participant will have to let you in the front lobby doors.

••• The VJC Alumni Band concert will be on Saturday evening, June 29th. The concert will begin at 7:00 p.m., with a soundcheck beforehand. (Perhaps at 5:45 p.m.? Still TBD.)

••• All rehearsals will take place in Scottsdale's Ravenscroft Hall, as will the concert. Ravenscroft is located at 8445 E. Hartford Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85255.

In most cases, auditioning will not be necessary. In rare cases (one possible scenario being if you haven't played your instrument for an extended period), an audition may be necessary to participate. In all cases, participation in any VJC ensemble or program (not just Alumni Band) is at the discretion of the VJC Director.

The final thing that is worthy of reiteration? We want this to be a great experience, both musically and socially. After the abundant challenges associated with the pandemic, having a communal, creative experience can truly be soul-restoring. So let's make sure the Alumni Band is always a fun, nurturing environment. And let us endeavor to enjoy one another's company—and honor each other's creative gifts—at all times!


Russell Schmidt

Director, Valley Jazz Cooperative

For anyone interested in knowing how last year's group shook out, here was our final line-up for the 2023 VJC Alumni Band:


Alto saxophone: Hayden Lucas

Colton Johnson

Tenor saxophone (rotational approach): Will Edwards

Theo Strich

Antonio Nango

Baritone saxophone: Elijah Valdivia

Trumpet (rotational approach): Jesse Deems

Leodan Parra

Ronan Gray

Sesar Parra

Elias Villa

Trombone: Kennie Sohadi

Guitar: Eddie Galicia

Bass: Spencer Huttenmeyer

Drums: Trevin Rockwood

Additional musicians included:

Stephanie Tateiwa, featured guest artist (soprano and alto saxophone)

Oliver Gomez, featured guest artist (bass)

Diego Jaquez, guest performer (trombone)

Chanson Peck, guest performer (trombone)

Kevin Bock, guest performer (tuba)

Russell Schmidt, director (piano)

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