For some musicians, being invited to play at the Newport Jazz Festival is an honor that comes after decades of earning their “chops,” creating a unique style or sound, and gaining the respect of their peers in the music industry.
For two Barrington students, Jacob Greenberg and Amelia Szosz, the invitation to play at the internationally recognized festival came at the start of their musical career.
Jacob, a 2013 graduate of Barrington High School, and Amelia, who will enter her junior year at BHS this fall, will perform with the Rhode Island Music Educators Association (RIMEA) Senior All State Jazz Ensemble on Saturday. The students earned their chops and the opportunity to perform at the festival after competing at the Rhode Island All State Band competition.
For Jacob, this will be his second time playing the festival. Last year he played fifth trumpet for the All State Jazz Ensemble. This year he’s moved up a few chairs to first trumpet.
“This is one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Jacob said.
Both musicians took up their instruments in elementary school. Jacob was in the fourth grade in Maryland when he first picked up a trumpet. Amelia chose the trombone as a fifth grader at Hampden Meadows School.
“Usually you don’t find a lot of girl trombonists,” she said. “In fifth grade I was pretty clueless.”
She and a friend decided to learn the trombone as part of the school’s music program “to be weird, because no one else did it,” Amelia said.
The other girl soon lost interest, but Amelia found a niche, listening to such jazz masters as Wycliffe Gordon, J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding.
“I try to emulate their tone,” she said, if not their style. “Tone is something you can’t get unless you listen to a lot of music.”
This summer she attended a camp at the Eastman School of Music, a part of the Rochester School of Music in N.Y. In the fall she will begin playing with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra.
On stage, the band will be directed by Barbara Hughes, instrumental director at Barrington High School. Ms. Hughes has been working with the All State Jazz Ensemble for the event, rehearsing frequently to perfect the five pieces they will play.
Being his second appearance at the jazz festival, and first trumpet, Jacob is a natural leader helping fellow musicians — and Ms. Hughes — overcome any nervousness they might feel.
Recognizing that many jazz veterans never get the opportunity to appear in Newport, Jacob is humbled by the experience.
“This is the best jazz gig,” he said. “You get to perform up close and personal” with jazz greats.
Jacob will continue his music career after Newport when he reports to Virginia Poly-Tech Corps of Cadets on Aug. 17. He will join the Air Force ROTC program there and, after his freshman year, has already secured a top spot in the corps band.
The RIMEA Senior All State Jazz Ensemble is scheduled to perform from 10:45-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3, on the Harbor stage.