“We are breaking the mold of the other high schools in this district,” said J.P. Balmat, music director at MBHS.
All of his energy goes into teaching jazz, he said.
The school’s highly-regarded Dixieland Jazz Band and newly-formed Jazz Ensemble offer students an alternative to the more traditional marching band, which the school does not have.
The jazz education provides students with a platform for expression and improvisation, he said. It cultivates creativity in his students.
The Dixieland Jazz Band, formed last year, has performed at several area events and in front of many local organizations. Recent performances have included the Thanksgiving Jazz Festival at the Town and Country Hotel, the Crystal Pier Tree Lighting and at its own MBHS Winter Concert.
Its style of music has a New Orleans feel and sound.
His students perform in nearly 50 performances a year.
The Jazz Ensemble focuses more on jazz sounds of the 1920s and 1930s. The roots for the group date back to the jazz band that played at MBHS in the 1960s, Balmat said.
MBHS also offers a foundational beginning band class.
In the future, Balmat said, the school hopes to cultivate a strings program. Currently, both Pacific Beach Middle School and Crown Point Junior Music Academy offer strings programs and Balmat hopes to build his program as children rise from the lower grades to the high school.
Nearly 95 percent of his students need to borrow an instrument from the school. All of the money raised from public performances goes back into the school’s music fund.
Balmat is thankful for all of the community support the program has received from groups like Friends of Pacific Beach Secondary Schools and Las Patronas, which recently awarded the music department nearly $15,000. Balmat used the funds to purchase new acoustic shells, allowing for a professional, rich sound in the school’s performance space.