Featured Performer: Wando High School

Wando High School Jazz Band

The Wando Jazz Program consists of three student ensembles.  The Festival Jazz Band is Wando’s premier jazz ensemble with a standard big band instrumentation. It is an auditioned ensemble that rehearses weekly after school. The next ensemble is the 8:30ish Wando Lab Band, a small group that consists of the students enrolled in the Jazz Band class at Wando. Lastly is the newly-formed Wando Big Band, a group open to students that are new to jazz, play non-traditional jazz instruments, or wish to learn a second instrument.  These groups perform at several concerts throughout the school year, culminating with the highly attended and anticipated Wando Jazz and Percussion Concert in the Spring.        

The Wando Jazz Program has had a consistently strong showing in student placement to the South Carolina All-State Jazz Bands, having more students than any other school placed in the All-State groups several times. The band has also had students participate in the Honor Jazz Band of America and the Charleston All Star Youth Jazz Orchestra. The students have had the chance to work with several professional musicians, including Nat McIntosh of the Youngblood Brass Band, the Peer to Peer program of the Thelonious Monk Institute, and Charleton Singleton, Robert Lewis, Simon Harding, Mark Sterbank, and Cameron Handel of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra. Several of the students have also attended numerous jazz camps, including the Jamey Abersold Summer Jazz Workshop.

The Wando Jazz Program has played several public events, including the Lowcountry Strawberry Festival, the Mount Pleasant Business Association, and other events in the Charleston area.  However, this year marks the first time that the Wando Jazz Program will be featured at the SCMEA In-Service Convention.

Jeff Handel is an Associate Band Director, and the Jazz and Percussion Director at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, SC.  He is part of the creative team for the marching band, directs the percussion ensembles and jazz bands, and leads the steel drums class, among other musical duties. Jeff’s talents are also employed on a semi-annual basis as the musical coordinator for pep rallies.

While at Wando, Jeff has been a clinician for “Developing Independence & Musicianship In Your Percussion Section” at the SCMEA conference.  He has acted as a FUNdamentals clinician at the SCPAS day of Percussion, and has been a clinician at the Low Country Percussion Festival.  Most recently, Jeff was an instructor at the inaugural Percussion Camp of the Carolinas.   His percussion ensemble was featured at the SCMEA in-service convention in 2016 in a dual concert with the Wando Concert Band 1.

Before he began teaching Wando, Jeff was the percussionist for the Dallas Brass, where he toured throughout the US through the school year.  While with Dallas Brass, he presented clinics for elementary through college-aged students and performed nearly 100 concerts each season. His personal highlights of each concert included xylophone solos and a Gene Krupa inspired drum solo. When his teaching schedule has allowed any time for performing, Jeff has been found freelancing in and around the Charleston area with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Wind Symphony, the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, and playing drum set with Cameron and the Funk Dumplins.  

Jeff received his education at Indiana University, earning his Bachelor’s of Music Education as well as a Performer’s Certificate. While at IU, he instructed the Indiana University Marching Hundred Drumline and served as an Associate Instructor of Percussion. Jeff has served as a percussion instructor for elementary, middle, high school, and college levels.  He has worked with several award- winning groups around the country, as well as the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps. Jeff’s foundation in marching percussion led to performances with the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, Star of Indiana’s Brass Theater, and several US and Japanese tours with the shows Blast! and Blast II: M.I.X. 

When not teaching or playing, he spends as much time as possible with his wife Cameron and daughters, Harper and Maryjane.