Jazz students win top honor

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Two Steamboat Springs High School juniors have been given the highest honor in the state for jazz musicians their age. The recognition comes with an added piece of prestige, as they are the first students in the high school's history to be given seats in the Colorado All-State Jazz Band, according to SSHS band director Ken Crombie.

Trumpet player Lee Wren and alto saxophone player Kenyon Brenner sent in audition tapes earlier this year and weren't sure what to expect. Teachers told them they were talented, but living in remote Steamboat Springs, the two hadn't heard much music by other jazz students in the state.

"The All-State Jazz Band is a small, elite group," Crombie said. "To be accepted means they are the best in the state." Brenner will play lead alto saxophone, and Wren earned third chair on trumpet.

"This will look very impressive on their resume," Crombie said.

Seventeen musicians from across the state were chosen for the All-State Jazz Band. They will perform at the Colorado Music Educators Association Conference in January at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Thousands of people will attend the concert.

"It's a very big deal," Crombie said.

As part of their audition, Wren and Brenner were asked to record two difficult jazz pieces; examples of improvisation to various chords; and the execution of several scales to show their range, Wren said.

Wren and Brenner discovered jazz early on.

"It's so fun to play," Wren said. "It's faster, and it varies more (than other forms of music). It lets you be creative."

Brenner and Wren listen to "the greats" to get ideas for their improvisational styles. True to their instruments, Brenner listens to jazz saxophone players John Coltrane and Michael Brecker, and Wren listens to trumpet players such as Miles Davis and Maynard Ferguson.

Brenner has been studying saxophone with Andrew Dahlke, an assistant professor of music at the University of Northern Colo--rado. After graduation, Brenner plans to attend UNC to study jazz.

Jazz lovers can see Brenner and Wren at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the holiday concert at SSHS or every Friday night at the Three Peaks Grill. Brenner recently joined a group of adult musicians who play jazz weekly at the restaurant. Wren hopes to sit in with the group occasionally.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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