Music in the Community Club jazzes it up for seniors

MIHS students are a hit at community events.

When Ashwin Krishnaswamy and Jascha Silberstein got into jazz music, they really dug into it.

This school year, the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) juniors founded the Music in the Community Club at school and have brought 17 other student musicians on board to perform mainly jazz tunes and some classical numbers in a live setting.

They’ve played about 15 gigs thus far at retirement communities like Aljoya on Mercer Island and The Gardens at Town Square in Bellevue, along with a show at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The musicians are set to unleash a jam session for jazz players of all ages at 6 p.m. on May 24 at Luther Burbank Park and they teach a group of Islander Middle School students the ways of jazz and improvisation after school on Mondays. They’re looking to add a charity fundraiser to their repertoire in the future.

“We founded this club to combine volunteering with something that we really enjoy doing,” said Krishnaswamy, who has played classical piano for 12 years, jazz piano for two years and alto saxophone for a tad over a year ago. “I love playing music and I love playing it by myself, but when you’re playing it in front of a crowd of people, it just makes it that much better because you see them enjoying it with you as well.”

Krishnaswamy feels that his musical expression reaches new heights within the jazz realm while playing alongside pianist Silberstein and their fellow club members. Typically, the club’s performances will include a drummer, pianist, bassist and three to four horn players.

Silberstein said the club brings joy to its audiences, and those special moments of community giving are valued by the musicians.

“I really value giving students at our school the opportunity to perform outside of school events and gain experience performing in front of a public audience. I think that sharing our talents and passion for music is really special and this club enables that,” Silberstein added.

Sophomore drummer Alanna Larson said it’s a rewarding experience to perform in front of the attendees at retirement homes and community centers.

“Seeing the smiles of everyone in the audience makes me feel like we’re making a difference,” she said.

The club also has an award-winner within its ranks as Larson recently notched first place with her difficult multiple percussion solo, “Canned Heat,” at the Washington State Solo and Ensemble Contest.

“I’m so incredibly grateful to everyone who supported me while I was learning and practicing this piece, especially my parents and my percussion teacher Brian Yarkosky,” she said.

When the club musicians get rolling, people are thrilled to hear the familiar jazz tunes, Krishnaswamy said. “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Autumn Leaves” are two of the classic pieces that hit strong with the crowds.

“One of the most powerful moments for me was actually when a group of us were playing at Aljoya during a Mardi Gras party. We were just playing background music and we started playing ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and then a group of senior citizens started dancing to our music,” Krishnaswamy said with pride.

To contact the club, email: