Huntsman presents Varsity Jazz Ensemble with award | ParkRecord.com

Huntsman presents Varsity Jazz Ensemble with award

Frank Fisher, Of the Record staff

Governor Jon Huntsman made a special trip to Park City High School on Wednesday to present an award to and hear the school’s Varsity Jazz Ensemble play before a full house of high school students in the Eccles Center.

Huntsman, an accomplished pianist, was expected to jam with the ensemble musicians, but declined, saying he wanted to hear the ensemble’s pianist, (John Patterson) play.

Huntsman presented the 2006 Governor’s Mansion Artist Award for music to the jazz ensemble. "You have one of the greatest jazz bands in the entire state," the Governor said.

David Halliday, the ensemble director, accepted the award. He, was hired by the high school to teach for one year, filling in for music director Chris Taylor, who is on sabbatical. "Chris deserves this award," said Halliday.

Halliday was excited about the Governor’s presence. "I view it as an honor. He’s a very talented musician himself," he said.

Halliday said this all came about when he received a phone call in August from the Governor’s office, with word the jazz ensemble had won the award. The musicians were invited to receive the award and perform for the Governor and guests on Sept. 13.

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One week before the performance, Halliday received a letter from the Governor, who wrote that he had unscheduled trip to Washington, D.C., and regretted that he would be unable to host the event. The musicians were disappointed, but Huntsman pledged to come to Park City High School to hear the ensemble in action.

Halliday and his musicians played the event at the Governor’s Mansion In Salt Lake City and received the prestigious award, previously awarded in other years to Utah Symphony director Keith Lockhart, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Ballet West among others. The Varsity Jazz Ensemble was the first high school group to be awarded the honor.

Huntsman kept his word, though, and in a rare school appearance, personally presented the Governor’s Mansion award to Halliday and the Ensemble, to make up for his not being able to present the award months earlier.

"This is the first high school I’ve been to since I was in high school," said the Governor. After speaking for several minutes, he handed over the stage to the Varsity Jazz Ensemble.

Trumpet player Charlie Carr, who played the solo in the piece "Green Onions," said, "I knew the Governor was here, but when I solo, I forget about everything that’s not music."

The jazz ensemble was followed by a preview of Park City High School’s musical production of, "Starmites," playing at the Eccles Center.

Park City High School Principal Hilary Hays was grateful that the Governor had made the effort to come to the high school to hear the jazz ensemble. "He truly wanted to hear our band," she said.

She also praised the Governor for not taking center-stage at any expense to the ensemble’s jazz pianist, of whom she said, "John Patterson that boy rocks."

Hays said that class time is incredibly important to teachers, but that all teachers had allowed their students to come see their peers play.

"The students’ show of support for each other means so much to me," she said.