Dr. L and the All Star Chaps perform at the Parker Jazz Club

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Inside of the dimly lit Parker Jazz Club Oct. 28, six musicians sit around the green room in the back. The bassist is somewhere out in the already crowded hubbub of the club, socializing before the first set. The rest of the group is composed of members of the Westlake Jazz Band, plus one surprising addition: Superintendent Dr. Tom Leonard. They call themselves Dr. L and the All Star Chaps, and they mean business

The band consists of seniors Nick Acevedo on trumpet, Hunter Nyhiuse on piano, David Webber on drums, junior Zach McCaul on trombone and Leonard on saxophone. Senior Maggie Neuberger also performed as a guest singer with the group under her stage name Margo Zelle. A professional bassist also accompanied the Chaps. The band was started by Dr. L himself, who discovered Hunter, the first member, through a school event.

“[Hunter] was playing the art show we had where all the elementary kids distribute art at the administration building,” Leonard said. “I moved an electric piano there, and I said ‘Get me a piano player,’ and Kerry Taylor sent him and a bass player. I was listening to him out of the corner of my ear and I go, ‘That kid is d**n good.’”

Leonard, who has a connection at the Parker Jazz Club, then invited Hunter to play with him. 

“He said, ‘If you put together a combo, we’ll be able to play at Parker’s,’” Hunter said. “So, I talked to Nick, I talked to Zach, and I talked to David. We met and just put together some songs, and here we are.”

Zach, like Hunter, was invited by Leonard to join the band by mere chance. 

“I was at a dinner with Mr. Ramsey and Dr. Leonard, for some reason,” Zach said. “I was talking to Dr. Leonard about jazz, and he was like, ‘You’re a trombone player, right?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, yeah, I enjoy doing it. It’s a lot of fun.’ And he was like, ‘You should come join my band.’”

While all of the high schoolers in the band are also in the Westlake Jazz Band, many of them met way before that. Hunter and Nick met through their parents, who both work for Eanes ISD.

“Hunter’s dad is a bus driver for Eanes and my mom is a bus driver for Eanes,” Nick said. “It was a birthday party for one of the bus drivers and he invited everyone and their families, so Hunter was asked to play some piano and [Maggie] was asked to sing and one of the bus drivers was just like ‘Bring your horn,’ and so I show up and I see them going and I’m like ‘Can I join you?’ and we played some pieces together. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t great, but it was fun. Since then we’ve been playing jazz ensemble and it’s been good.” 

When it came time for the performance, the group grabbed their sunglasses and instruments and sauntered onto the stage. Some of the members dedicated a song to a special person in their life. Leonard, chose the opening song, “Summertime”, to dedicate to his wife. 

“I dedicate this song to my wife because I’m scared to be out here, but she gives me the courage to do it,” Leonard said to the crowd. 

Nick dedicated the song “There’s Only One of You” to his mom. 

“I know it’s a romantic song, but there’s only one of my mom and she’s amazing,” Nick said during their performance.

While the drums are generally one of the most forgotten instruments in a band, David’s drumming got some of the loudest cheers during the performance. David has already performed before at Parker Jazz Club a few times with the Westlake Jazz Band. 

“The drums here are really nice,” David said. “[My favorite thing about playing drums is] holding the band together.” 

“[He’s] the backbone,” Nick said. “The mitochondria of the cell.”

One of the highlights of their performance occurred during the song “Night Train.” Dr. Leonard chose this song as a tribute to his father, and in the middle of the song, he came down from the stage to play in the middle of the crowd. Senior Lily Burke, who was in the audience, was impressed by the performance. 

“It was awesome,” Lily said. “Dr. L had a really inviting energy and it looked like everyone had a good time on stage.”

The band’s chemistry on stage was palpable, despite having only practiced twice prior to their performance. 

“I call it infinite creation,” Hunter said. “Everyone taps in and you can take any turn at any moment, and everyone’s contributing their own threads of energy to this shared creation, and you’re expressing that and giving it to the audience.”

When asked about their future plans, Dr. L and the All Star Chaps hopes to continue performing. 

“Musically, we all understand how to interact with each other,” David said. “Dr. Leonard is really excited, and he’s super energetic about his music. I know we’re gonna keep performing.”

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