Nauset High Musicians In Top Form At Georgia Festival

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Local Music , Education , Nauset High School

The First Encounter Jazz Ensemble commands the stage at the Atlanta Heritage Festival in a gold medal performance. COURTESY PHOTO

ORLEANS Cape Symphony Artistic Director Jung-Ho Pak isn't the only Cape Cod musician who's earned the title maestro.

Applause, please, for the eight Maestro award winners of Nauset Regional High School, who received that honor recently at the Atlanta Heritage Festival competition. Take a bow, Gordon Clark (trombone), Sean Chung (euphonium), Keb Hutchings-McMahon (guitar), Parker Mumford (piano), Acacia Nelson (voice), Lucy Pollock (alto sax), Gavin Rice (baritone sax), and Jess Williams (trumpet and voice).

The Maestros were awarded for outstanding individual performances at the festival, held in Marietta, Ga. Nauset's jazz ensemble and honors chorus won gold medals. The school's four other units – treble (women's) chorus, concert chorus, concert band, and orchestra – took home silver medals.

Nauset fine arts department head and vocal music director Thomas Faris and Daniel Anthony, director of instrumental music, led a contingent of 76 students to compete with peers from Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia.

“All of the kids in all of these groups are there because this is something they're interested in,” Anthony said. “I talk with the students in rehearsals, and they're talking about listening and finding some of this music on their own. Mine and Mr. Faris's job is to make sure all of the great music created over the last hundreds of years is also modernly relevant to these kids in an era where there's all this fast-food music, produced so fast and we process it so fast, and there's not so much musical sustenance.”

The jazz band, known as The First Encounter Jazz Ensemble, was the highest scoring instrumental group at the festival. They played two standards, “Autumn Leaves” and “Satin Doll,” and what Anthony called a “funk chart,” “Honk.”

Music is what sustains Gavin Rice, a freshman from Brewster, whose baritone sax solo at the beginning of Jeff Jarvis's “Honk” earned him a Maestro award. Surprisingly, he's only played the instrument for four months.

“My first ever instrument was the violin,” he said. “I really liked the sound of it and just loved the music as a little kid.”

He didn't stop there. Next came the mandolin and banjo, both played by his music teacher. Then he added the bass, playing the upright in the orchestra and electric in the jazz band; it's become his “number one most successful instrument...I've been making money with the bass.” He's played in pit bands in venues such as Harwich Junior Theatre and Cotuit Center for the Arts.

And his musical journey continues. Next came a bouzouki, then guitar, then piano and jaw harp. When the jazz band's baritone sax player had a scheduling problem, he moved into that seat less than half a year ago. His predecessor auditioned on tenor sax for next year's band, so the freshman multi-instrumentalist will hold down the bari chair for a while.

Rice hopes to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and become a music teacher and performer, maybe as director of a pit band. He's always wanted to compose, but “just can't find the time. I would definitely like to write a Latin jazz piece.”

By now, you'd probably like to hear some music yourself. Mark these dates down: On May 12 at 7 p.m., Rice and his band Celtic Roots will appear at Church of the Holy Spirit on Route 28 in Orleans to benefit homeless youth in the Nauset region (tickets at brownpapertickets.com). On May 23 and 24 at 7 p.m., all the Nauset instrumental and choral groups will perform at the Eastham high school's Fine and Applied Arts show, also featuring art installments and a fashion show. Finally, on May 31 (time to be announced), The First Encounter Jazz Ensemble will play for Swing Night at Captains Golf Course in Brewster (tickets $10 at the door).