For the last several months, ever since the high school district announced that it would be cutting a slew of classes for budget reasons, a dedicated cadre of parents and students has been appearing at school board meetings pleading with the district to reconsider its decision to cut Analy’s well-respected jazz band program.
The district announced early in the year that it would be cutting all classes with fewer than 30 students for the 2019-20 school year — and jazz band, an elite class limited to 15 students, was an obvious candidate for the chopping block.
It seemed like the pleas of jazz band’s boosters were falling on deaf ears and that jazz band was doomed to be demoted from a class to a club. Classes have a dedicated, paid teacher and students get credit for the class; not so with clubs.
Then in mid-June, the district changed its mind and announced that jazz band would remain a class next year after all.
What accounts for the district’s change of heart? Money.
“We received official word from Paramount that they will be filming a fourth season of ‘13 Reasons Why,’” said Superintendent Toni Beal.
The money the district gets from renting school facilities to the film’s production company allowed it to add two classes back into the schedule (video classes at Analy and El Mo), which freed up funds at Analy to add one more class. The administration chose Analy Jazz Band.
Jazz band boosters were ecstatic.
“We were extremely surprised and, of course, just over the moon about it,” said Lisa Mahoney Mendivil, who was president of Analy Band Wagon, the parent group that supports Analy’s music program, in 2018-19. (She’ll be the organization’s secretary next year.)
Her son Garrett Mendivil, who graduated this year, was one of jazz band’s stars and commuted from their home in Rohnert Park to attend Analy because of its music program.
“Kids from all over the area are attracted to Analy because of its strong music program,” Mendivil said.
Interdistrict transfers like Mendivil’s son bring a lot of money to the West Sonoma County Union High School District every year — a fact boosters of the Analy music program never failed to bring up at board meetings, while arguing their case for jazz band.
Band wagon members were grateful for the district’s change of heart.
“Analy Band Wagon wants to express its deep appreciation for all the careful listening and deep dedication to our music program shown by every member of the West Sonoma County High School District Board and by past and present leaders in our AHS administration,” read a press release from the Analy Band Wagon. “We also acknowledge the outstanding effort of our parents and students in bringing this issue to the leadership.”
The band wagon press release also gave a special shout out to Analy’s new principal Shauna Ferdinandson and to Superintendent Toni Beal for saving jazz band.
Analy has a new music director
As of last week, the administration hadn’t decided yet who would be teaching jazz band — traditionally, a zero period 6:45 a.m. class whose students are famed for their ferocious dedication.
Chances are good, however, that it will be the new music director, Casey Jones.
Jones, who will be teaching at Analy 60% of the time and 40% at Brookhaven for the coming school year, has been teaching for six years. Most recently he taught at San Jose Middle school in Novato, where his duties included concert band, choir and jazz band. Prior to that he held a teaching position at Sonoma Valley High School teaching concert band, concert choir and more.
Jones has experience playing and teaching a multitude of instruments, including clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, bassoon, strings and percussion. He attended Sonoma State University and has worked at the well-known Cazadero Music Camp in the summer since 2006.
Jones has played the clarinet for 20 years. He is a member of the New Orleans-style jazz group, the King Street Giants, which won the North Bay Bohemian’s award for Best Band in Sonoma County in 2017.
Mendivil said the parent group has high hopes for Jones, whom she feels has a huge opportunity to grow the music program at Analy, in part because she feels his students at Brookhaven Middle School will want to follow him to Analy.
“We were sure that if they got Casey Jones, the music program could double next year from what it was last year,” she said.