Mike Fuller, in his second year of directing both bands, said band members in each group have shown their dedication and their love for the music they play.

The jazz bands for Hannibal Middle School and Hannibal High School definitely caught the judges' notice this year, with musicians receiving multiple accolades for musical performances on the heels of their “Spring into Jazz” concert on Friday, April 20.

Mike Fuller, in his second year of directing both bands, said band members in each group have shown their dedication and their love for the music they play — reflected in lasting friendships and a host of awards earned during the season. As the Hannibal High School Jazz Band practiced “Fun Time” and “Brass Machine” for their upcoming concert, the ensemble's cohesiveness, professionalism and fun-loving attitude were clearly evident. Playing a mixture of jazz standards from the 1940s and 1950s and contemporary selections, the band carries on the legacy of former director Craig Buck — whom Fuller said is fondly mentioned at competitions throughout the state.

“There's always been a rich tradition when Mr. Buck was teaching here, the jazz band would always go to the state convention,” he said. The legacy is expanding, as the band programs continue to grow.

Following a slight dip in the participation, Fuller said the middle school and high school jazz bands are bringing in more members and now feature full instrumentation — a group of 40 to 50 eighth graders will audition for available spots next year. And both bands have received multiple accolades for their hard work and dedication during competitions.

The High School Jazz Band displayed their musical prowess by bringing home top honors in several categories during the Showcase of Excellence competition in Quincy — first place for Large School Division Jazz Band, Outstanding Missouri Jazz Band, first place in the Intermezzo Division, Best Rhythm Section and Best Soloist to drummer Jacob Bross.

Both groups also received Gold Awards, and their cumulative scores netted them the Outstanding Jazz Band Sweepstakes Award. Hannibal Middle School Jazz Band members achieved second place in their division — outplacing five high school groups — and Braysen Douglas won the soloist award in the middle school division. Fuller said that several members of the Hannibal High School Jazz Band performed with the River City Revue show choir — whose members also swept the competition.

“Their success and our success together won the overall competition in Quincy,” he said. “They take all the jazz band scores and choir scores and have a grand championship. That was neat to share that with them and just have the music school represented so well.”

The Hannibal Middle School Band also joined the Culver-Stockton Jazz Festival, studying jazz theory and music technology, and participating in small group sectionals and large group clinicians led by a college professor.

“They were the only middle school band there, so it was pretty neat for them to show off their skills to the high school groups,” he said.

Hannibal High School band members also gleaned valuable information during the festival. Under Fuller's direction, the students have jumped into three new pieces since March, covering jazz genres like swing, Latin and worldwide music and ballads. He emphasized that each selection is the complete version, with many songs at the collegiate level.

“We try to cover the wide gamut, so when they leave the jazz program they've got a well-rounded education of what jazz really is, and what those opportunities are,” he said.

Senior students have joined dedicated leaders in the group like all-state drummer Jacob Bross. At each grade level, the students were eager about what the future holds and what they had achieved so far.

Freshman Alex Webb, who plays bass, said she fondly remembered touring local elementary schools and sharing her love of music with students in that age group.

“It was pretty cool getting younger kids excited to be in jazz band,” she said. “And it kind of prepared you to be in front of an audience that is a little rowdy.”

Sophomore and trombone player Gavin Jones was excited to share the success that each band member poured their dedication into.

“I think that when we win awards like that, I think that it shows how hard we worked,” he said. “And it's a great feeling.”

Junior trumpet player Ryan Deloney commended Fuller's leadership and interaction with his students.

“I think we are really benefitting each other. We're both learning more about jazz,” he said.

Fellow trumpet player and senior Austin Shulse plans to move forward as a music major at Southwest Baptist University, noting the long-lasting friendships he's made and accomplishments that everyone has shared through the years.

“It's just been a really great experience here,” he said. “Hannibal music — just being a senior and going through the whole program — we've grown a lot, and it's really cool to see how this program has come such a long way, both in numbers and in work ethic. I mean, it's a whole new band this year.”

The band members in the jazz and concert ensembles will join together again for a Spring Band Concert beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3 in the Hannibal High School Auditorium.

For more information, search Hannibal Pirate Pride Bands on Facebook.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com