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New Trier Alumni Bring the Jazz Back Home

A jazz band stops by New Trier to play for their alma mater before heading to Jazz Fest this weekend.

Nearing the end of a month long tour that will culminate this weekend at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Fatum Brothers Jazz Orchestra played for a smaller yet no less significant audience: students from N (NTHS).

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The big band, which entails saxophones, brass and a rhythm section, traveled across the country to take the Gaffney Auditorium stage on Thursday afternoon, where they played original music and favorites by jazz forefather Duke Ellington.

"How did you do that?" one student, microphone in hand, asked the orchestra from his seat in the stands.

"A lot of these tunes were played on the road for three weeks," said John Fatum, a drummer and 2008 NTHS graduate. "If the form is messed up, we have to stop and get back on board. Each person has to be in rhythm."

Orchestra members shouted as the bass lines rolled, drums rumbled and fingers jived up the piano keys like a tap dancer with unstoppable flow.

For the Fatum brothers, their love of music started as kids and really picked up steam in high school.

"I know you all have a lot of passion," said Michael Fatum, trumpeter and also a 2008 NTHS graduate. "And if you're from New Trier, you can do anything."

The two things that matter most in the orchestra, the young trumpeter said, are hard work and the level of musicianship his bandmates bring. The rest relies on passion, learning and having fun.

"I remember sitting in Jazz I and thinking about jazz," he said, "and thinking about that girl in Spanish class. We were all standing in your shoes."

Orchestra members are currently enrolled in conservatory programs throughout the U.S., including the Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University, New York University, the Manhattan School of Music, Juilliard School of Music, University of Illinois and New England Conservatory.

You can catch the Fatum Brothers Jazz Orchestra Saturday at the Chicago Jazz Festival in Grant Park, from 2:15 p.m to 2:55 p.m. Several high school and college groups will be featured at the Young Lions Tent. Admission is free.

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