Jazz Man | Senior gears up for his jazz performance with personal twist

Above, senior Jax Barry plays one of many saxaphone solos in his high school career. In the top right picture, Barry plays with his grandpa Tom Barry. This moment will be re-created at the jazz show Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 in the CFHS auditorium.

Senior Jax Barry has been playing the saxophone for the last eight years, and in that time he’s also participated in jazz band for six years. Making multiple new friends and forming bonds with fellow players, Barry said the relationships he’s made throughout the years have been the most rewarding part of jazz band.

Coming up on the jazz show this Saturday, Feb. 8, Barry said this performance is his favorite show to play all year. “The jazz show has always been my favorite concert because all the jazz bands in the CF district perform, and it’s cool to see the progression of talent through the bands,” Barry said. “It’s nice because we don’t have to travel, and we have a large crowd full of not just parents, but also friends and fellow students.” 

Also adding to the excitement coming from Saturday’s performance, Barry said this concert comes with a little personal touch. “This Saturday, we are playing ‘Lullaby of the Leaves,’ ‘Evalyn the Queen of the Racket Club,’ ‘First In Last Out,’ ‘Triple Barry’ and ‘Another You’. This concert will actually have a guest artist, my grandfather, Tom Barry. We will be performing ‘Triple Barry,’ a song written for my grandfather, brother and myself,” Barry said.

Barry loves all aspects of band, but said jazz band will always be his favorite. “Jazz band is a whole other experience. It’s a way you can really get to know the directors and to play different styles of music that you normally don’t play in concert band,” Barry said. “In jazz band, I play tenor sax, and in concert band I play alto sax. Marching band is fun because you get to play with all the members of your section, not just the people in the concert band you are in.”

A well-accomplished musician, Barry has participated in All-State honors multiple times. “I have auditioned for All-State three times on the alto sax. My sophomore year, I made alternate, and my junior and senior year I made All-State. The process consists of learning all your major scales and chromatic scale, as well as a couple of etudes and solo excerpt,” Barry said. “All-State was an amazing experience, and it’s super fun to plan your horn all day, as well as perform with some of the best student musicians in the state.” 

Although he’s received many opportunities when it comes to All-State, Barry said his favorite awards have stemmed from his jazz band accomplishments. “My biggest accomplishment in jazz band is getting selected to honor jazz bands around the state and receiving various solo awards. This year I am auditioning for the 4A All-State Jazz Band, so, hopefully, I make that,” Barry said. 

Barry isn’t surprised by his love of music. He said band has always been in his blood. “I was introduced to music from a young age. My grandfather taught saxophone and oboe at UNI, my grandma teaches piano, and there are several other musicians in my family,” Barry said. “From a young age I knew I wanted to play music, and when I finally started, it just seemed right. As famous pianist Herbie Hancock said, ‘I think I was supposed to play jazz.’”

Thankful to have picked up the musical gene, Barry said the feeling that comes from a great solo is incomparable to anything else. “There is no greater feeling as a jazz musician like playing a burnin’ solo. I remember last year, at the NEIBA jazz festival, I was featured on a tune called ‘Ecclusiastics,’ and I was very proud of the solo I played,” Barry said.

Belting each and every note of a jazzy sax solo, Barry said he wouldn’t be the player he is today without such great sources of inspiration. “There are too many people to list, but some of them are my friends like Johnny Hartleip, and others are famous musicians such as Roy Hargrove and Terrace Martin. My teachers, Mr. Engelhardt, Mr. Ramsey, Chris Merz and Tom Barry also inspire me to be better and to never stop working,” Barry said.

Barry said everyone has a story to tell, and his preferred method of communication is through music. “I love how everyone has something to say, and they say it in their own unique way. In music, there is no right or wrong. In saying that, there is no strict guideline in how someone is supposed to play or sound. If people could express themselves through words, then there would be no point in music,” Barry said.

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