Story By Kathy McPherson
Call it a family reunion, call it a party, call it a show, call it fun, call it big, and definitely call it a “don’t miss” event. The 2023 edition of In The Pocket’s annual mid-winter show celebrates a quarter-century of Durham Academy’s jazz-rock band. More than 20 alumni from the classes of 1999 to 2022 will join current ITP members at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for a free show in Kenan Auditorium.
The January Alumni & Family Show featuring alumni and current students has long been a staple for the auditioned jazz-rock ensemble, but this will be the first mid-winter show since 2000. COVID-19 restrictions ruled out the 2021 show, and a surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant canceled the 2022 show just days before the event, explained Mike Meyer, Upper School music teacher and director of In The Pocket.
“The family reunion aspect makes it so special,” Meyer said. “It's so much fun having the alumni come back and putting this big party on stage. And also for the older alumni to get to meet the current group and the current group to get to meet the alumni. I think it's great for them to understand that they're part of a tradition that's been going on for a long time — honestly, before any of them were born. It's just crazy to think about. It's this cool thing that's been going on for years and they get to be a part of it with each other.”
Meyer said knowing when In The Pocket began is “a bit unclear, but we think it was the ’98-’99 school year, either ’97-’98 or ’98-’99, which is why this ends up being about 25 years.” He explained that was when a group of Upper Schoolers approached former physics teacher Dr. Herb Lamb about making music together.
“They knew he was their physics teacher, but they also knew that he had grown up in the Mississippi Delta, was a blues musician and played bass and piano,” Meyer said. “They just talked about getting together and doing some jamming, and they did that. I think they put on a little concert.
“The part that I'm more familiar with is apparently there were some kids in the early 2000s who saw that happen — there was like this little break, this little hiatus in there — this next group of kids asked him to do the same thing with them. That's the group that pretty much morphed into what is now In The Pocket. The first year that group did stuff, I think was ’02-’03. And then, ’03-’04 was my first year at DA, so I got involved.”
In The Pocket has evolved into an auditioned group of instrumentalists and vocalists. This year’s group has 14 student members who participate in a class as a regular part of the Upper School academic schedule.
Kenna Wells ’24, a vocalist and current member of ITP, remembers watching In The Pocket perform when she came to DA as a first-grader.
“I thought they were a famous band. I thought they were amazing,” Wells said. “When I found out that they were a band in the Upper School, I knew that I wanted to join. I wanted to be in In The Pocket for such a long time. I joined this year, my junior year. It has been everything I thought it would be and more.”
Wells said she is looking forward to the Saturday night show “because I get to not only sing and perform with the current members, I also get to see the people that came before me in In The Pocket. It's a huge family, and I'm so excited to see people that came before me and perform with them.”
Current and former members of In The Pocket will perform together on Saturday night, but Meyer thinks the best part is what happens at the rehearsal before the show.
“The best part of it really is the day on Saturday, when we're putting all these songs together,” Meyer explained. “That's when everybody gets to meet each other and we're rehearsing and laughing and telling stories and all that. The concert itself is actually just the icing on the cake where we happen to do that for an audience. But the day itself, that whole day is — I mean, I call it a family reunion.”
The family reunion will happen again this Saturday, rehearsing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an hour for lunch together, and a short break before returning to Kenan Auditorium at 5:30 for a sound check. The doors to Kenan open at 7 p.m., and the show goes on at 7:30 p.m.
Meyer said the show has 18 songs and likely will run for two to two-and-a-half hours. While In The Pocket’s fall and spring shows are meant to be polished performances, this is not what Meyer would describe as a “formal” show.
“This is the show where whatever happens happens, and everybody's having a good time,” Meyer said. “When people aren't on a song, instead of going backstage, they come out into the audience and watch the other people make music, so the whole thing is very fluid. The whole evening is just very informal and a whole lot of fun.”
Admission is free to the 7:30 p.m. Saturday show in Kenan Auditorium, and the show will be streamed through Facebook Live on In The Pocket’s Facebook page.
ITP alumni and current members are looking forward to Saturday’s show.
Griffin Edwards ’21, who was an In The Pocket drummer, remembers his first experience with an alumni show in 2019.
“We had 15 to 20 alumni come and join us on stage,” Edwards said. “Some of these people I had seen in prior years watching ITP, but many of them I didn't know. It's just this overwhelming sense of family, where whether you know each other or not, you can all come together through this group and make awesome music together. It's just a really, really fun, really amazing experience in the group, and now being an alumnus it's awesome, especially because my senior year was kind of cut short by COVID ITP-wise. … For me, this is really special to have a chance to come back and keep playing with ITP.”
For Annie Brooks ’20, who played violin with In The Pocket, the mid-winter show really is a family reunion.
“I'm especially excited to get to do the alumni show,” Brooks said. “My little brother [Roger Brooks ’23] is in the group. I'm excited to get to play on stage with him, which I didn't get to do as a student.”
Riley Auman ’24 is a vocalist and is in her first year as an ITP member.
“Ever since I was auditioning for ITP, I had the alumni show in the back of my head as something that I would get to experience,” Auman said. To prepare for the mid-winter show, she’s been watching old In The Pocket videos on Vimeo.
“That was sort of when it set in for me,” Auman explained. “I felt like I was part of a long ITP tradition, stepping into something that's been going on for way longer than I can even comprehend. As someone who's been at DA since 2012, ITP was happening while I was in first grade. Now I am in ITP, which is very cool to think about. I'm very excited for that.”