GYPSUM – Brian Baxter said that being part of the All-State Jazz Band was a unique honor in life – an honor he enjoyed twice in his young life.
Baxter and Brooklyn Vargas, both seniors of Eagle Valley High School, distinguished themselves in the All-State groups: Baxter's second selection to the All-State Jazz Band as a bassist and Vargas' first ever All-State -State Concert Band on tenor saxophone. They have also been selected for the Western Slope Honor Jazz Band.
BYOB: Bring your own bass
Baxter says that he follows the trail that former guitarist and guitarist Charlie Madison, of the EVHS, has exploded in front of him. Madison has been selected twice for the All-State Jazz Band. Baxter played with Madison and decided if Charlie could do it, so could he.
"Charlie understood the music that was written on paper and how to bring it to a totally different level. I want to be able to listen to music like him. Brian Baxter
Stories recommended for you
"If it was not for Charlie, I could not have done that," Baxter said. "Charlie understood the music written on paper and how to make it to a totally different level, I want to be able to enjoy the music as it does."
Speaking at a different level, Baxter plays with several groups and groups in the area, especially students from Roaring Fork Valley playing with Aspen Jazz. These and the All-State Jazz Band players are not talkative.
"That's what they want to do with their lives," said Baxter.
After the experience of all states last year, his end-of-career goal was set: "I had to team up again with all the states," Baxter said.
The audition of the jazz band is anonymous.
"They do not want to know anything about you," said Baxter.
They sent him music, he played it and interpreted it, recorded it and sent it back. Like most entertainment companies, they will call you. They did it.
The music speaks of links – both in music and in musicians. The more Baxter meets great musicians, the more he plays with great musicians.
"It's a small world," said Baxter.
Vargas: Divert his reader
Vargas is one of two tenor saxophone musicians selected for the All-State Concert Band.
When we caught her, she was rehearsing Earth Wind & Fire's "September" with Baxter and a handful of other musicians.
In a school like Eagle Valley, everyone plays everything – a concert band, a jazz band, a pop band, and anything that involves pushing the wind through an instrument. It's good for them, said Pat Sheehy, director of the music department.
Vargas is sort of a reluctant All Star. She was an outstanding ski racer and softball player, but some horrible knee injuries and surgical procedures to restore her left her with time. She placed her tenor sax in her hands to fill this time and became a dandy player.
"If I were going to do that, I was going to do it right," Vargas said.
She started taking classes from Chris Harrison in Glenwood Springs, which turned her into a player – mainly by convincing her that she could be great.
She targeted the All-State group qualifiers and learned the music.
Make no mistake, it was demanding. She played two difficult plays and the judges gave her a play to read – you have to play it correctly the first time you see it, it was about as long as it took the judge to count the highlight: "One, two, ready, play."
She almost did not do it at all. Vargas had never done anything like that and was cold-hearted as the auditions drew closer.
"I started thinking that I could not be as good as these other musicians," she said.
Like Harrison, Sheehy, Baxter and many others told him with passion.
Always … "I did not expect to get there," Vargas said.
Shortly after, she received a text congratulating her on being one of two selected saxophonists.
"I could not believe it! I asked my parents to read it to make sure it was correct," Vargas said. "I was on Cloud 9."
Randy Wyrick, Editor-in-Chief, can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.