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Allied Organizations

Tom “Bones” Malone & Jeff Antoniuk - The little ‘gig’ that couldn’t… Or could it?

Trent Thacker
JECO Board Member
On a cool Friday afternoon in Mid-October of 2023, as I was preparing my things and getting our high school band ready for an away football game, I received a call from Eric Dregne with an opportunity that both scared the crap out of me - and sparked a will to succeed that pushed us into a memorable experience that my students could cherish for a lifetime…
Some background on me. I am in my 4th year of teaching, and 2nd year at my current district - Tiffin City Schools. I run all middle school bands, one high school symphonic band and our high school jazz ensemble, the TC Blue and Gold Big Band. I am an adjunct professor at Terra State Community College and run the area's only community Big Band, the Local 419 Big Band which I started in the winter of 2022.
After I received this call from Eric, my immediate reaction was “you want me to put together a concert featuring two world-class musicians, with no current funding AND have both of my groups ready to play a 2 hour show, in 6 weeks??? There is NO chance I can pull that off.” But on the bus ride to our game, I sat and made a checklist of things that would need to happen if we were to pursue this opportunity. Afterall, I couldn’t stop thinking about the impact a performance like this would have on our students and community. Considering many things like funding, clinics, advertisement, programming, I realized that it may NOT be impossible as I originally thought. At the end of the day, it came down to “how bad do I want this for the kids?”
I reached back out to Eric a few days later and got more information on dates, the guests’ schedule, and his vision on the show. Then I went back to the drawing board researching repertoire that could fit the bands, the holiday season and also feature our amazing guests. Then I needed to find funding for their fees, feeding the bands, and paying for advertisements. As it turns out, the community loves supporting the arts and we got our dinner catered by a local Italian restaurant, we received several monetary donations from various local business and community members who support the arts and our school booster program was happy to help in any way that we needed.
After funding, feeding and volunteers were covered, came the fun part - how do we incorporate these musicians and make this a learning experience for them. We decided to reach out to every school within 50 miles of Tiffin and let them know that our guests were going to give clinics to anybody who wanted to attend - this got people in the door for an educational experience that benefits all students. We then charged $5 for students and $10 for general admission during our ticket presale and $15 at the door. With zero overhead due to donations, we made over a thousand dollars - which covered part of the musicians fees. The rest of these costs were covered by the Jazz Education Connection of Ohio (JECO). I am a board member of this great organization in which our primary goal is to assist band directors with events much like this. The event happened on December 5th of 2023. We had around 125 people attend which in such a short time is great. We did our very best to advertise, I was on an evening radio show, and used social media as a gateway for getting the information out. But regardless of our audience attendance numbers, this event was amazing for our students - and that is the whole reason we chose this profession - to introduce our students to as many learning and performing experiences as possible.
The help that Eric and JECO provided was what made this possible. Funding for events like these is a scary process. Once you have the guests on campus, you have to pay them. However, JECO offered that “safety net” in the event that concert attendance doesn’t reach your funding goal. JECO’s network of professional musicians is quite vast which allows them to select artists that will be most beneficial to your school program. I will absolutely be putting on another event like this in the future (with some more prep time of course).

Trent Thacker is a fantastic up and coming educator, especially in the area of jazz music. His passion and dedication are inspiring to those who work with him. Trent is an advocate for Jazz Education and was an essential part of the presence for JECO at the 2024 OMEA Professional Development Conference.