For many Mountaineer musicians, retired teacher Doug Miller had always been their jazz instructor. But with his retirement last spring, the music program needed a new leader and choir teacher Megan Will accepted the challenge.
Will has a Masters in Trombone and Voice, Jazz Studies and Performance. She also teaches in the Joy of Music Program in Worcester and offers private lessons for trombone players.
“I started getting into jazz also in 7th grade… and the band director there [at Shrewsbury] was trying to get people to join the jazz band, so I decided to try it and I just, really liked it,” said Will. “It was a lot of fun, and I got to… be like myself.”
The music program offers students Honors Jazz Band, which requires an audition to enter, and the CPA Jazz Band, more commonly known as Jazz 2.
One of the most important aspects of jazz music revolves around its freedom of expression, or improvisation.
“You’re not gonna kill anyone, and it’s not going to kill you. It can be scary, but ‘the right note is usually only a half step away’,” said Will. “So I mean, if you play a note and it sounds really awful, you can just move your slide up and down one position and usually you’ll find something that works.”
But, Will admits, improvising in jazz also takes “practice”.
“You have to know and be really familiar with it [your instrument] technically and also have your ears in tune with it,” said Will.
Despite her new venture into jazz, Will said her passion remains with the choir.
“I actually prefer improvising with singing. I just find that singing comes more freely. I don’t have any hindrance – not that the instrument is always a hindrance,” said Will. “I actually prefer scatting – that’s like my thing.”