It's not your regular band trip.

Teen musicians at the Denver School of the Arts' Jazz Workshop Orchestra are the only Colorado high-school band chosen to participate in the jazz workshop at the annual Savannah Music Festival.

"These kids do a lot of playing around Denver, but there's not a lot of opportunity for them to go outside Denver unless I take them on a band trip," school band director Dave Hammond said.

The students are among 12 high-school bands selected to participate in the eighth annual Swing Central Jazz Band Competition and Workshop on March 7-9.

They'll study with jazz masters for three days and play in competition rounds that yield $13,000 in cash awards. And, because this is the largest musical arts festival in Georgia, they'll get lots of exposure performing in showcases on Savannah's River Street, along with attending performances by top regional and international jazz musicians.

But of all this, one thing matters most.

"They're really excited to be around kids their own age, who have the same interest in music," Hammond said.

They'll be playing with musicians from places including the Agoura High School Studio Jazz Band from California, and the Camden Creative Arts Jazz Band from New Jersey.


One of the judges and clinic teachers will be drummer Jason Marsalis, a member of the famed Marsalis New Orleans jazz family.

To help get the Denver students in top form before the workshop, the festival is sending bassist Rodney Whitaker — who has played with Marsalis' brothers Wynton and Branford Marsalis — to mentor them.

To help raise money for travel expenses, estimated at $1,200 per student, the Jazz Workshop Orchestra will hold a fundraiser at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Crossroads Theatre at the heart of the historic Five Points jazz district.

"The kids sound so good," Hammond said. "I'm very proud of them."


Road to Savannah fundraiser tickets are $20 per person and are available at or at the door of the Crossroads Theatre, 2590 Washington St.