Grammy Jazz Ensembles Hits Right Note with Student Musician

Jon Hatamiya, photo courtesy of the Grammy Foundation

Trombone player Jon Hatamiya is only in high school, but he’s about to have the unique opportunity to rub shoulders with notable Grammy Award-winning artists.

Hatamiya, 17, was one of 28 students from around the country selected from a field of 75 entrants to participate in the 2010 Grammy Jazz Ensembles program. He will be whisked away on an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles in late January to perform in front of big-name musical artists at a variety of Grammy Week events. The week will culminate with the opportunity to attend the Grammy Awards on Jan. 31 and to perform at Grammy after-party events.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Davis Sears, senior director of education at the Grammy Foundation. “It’s one of the few programs of its kind in the country.”

The program brings together the top high school vocalists and musicians from around the nation to form a jazz choir, combo and band.

“I’m looking forward to playing with the band. It’s all the best high school musicians,” said Hatamiya, a senior at Davis Senior High School in Davis, Calif.

The Ensembles will perform at such Grammy Week events as the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute on Jan. 29, which will pay tribute to musician Neil Young. And they will also perform in the “Grammy Salute to Jazz” honoring artist Kenny Burrell.

They will additionally perform in the new “Grammy in the Schools Live! A Celebration of Music and Education,” a fundraiser for music education. The Ensembles will also record a CD which will be available online through iTunes and Amazon.

Throughout the week, the Ensembles will have an opportunity to meet such jazz artists as James Moody, Mindi Abair and Brian Culbertson. Hatamiya said he is looking forward to the opportunity to meet artists in the field.

“I hope to become a professional musician, so making connections with anyone I can meet will be valuable,” said Hatamiya, who has been playing the trombone for seven years.

The application process to participate in the program is rigorous. Hatamiya submitted a video audition to the Grammy Foundation, which, included three recorded tracks.

“I created a DVD which included me and my rhythm section. It showed my improvisational skills,” he said.

Sears, who was part of the selection committee, said that Hatamiya stood out from other trombone players in his video audition.

“We look for a kid who is a good trombone player and good in multiple styles. We felt comfortable with Jon’s ability to play and how he approached the instrument. We sensed he would be able to handle all the rigors of the experience,” he said.

Hatamiya said that he has wanted to play the trombone and perform for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve always loved music. In the fifth grade, I started in the band. I chose the trombone because both my dad and grandfather played in school,” said Hatamiya, who applied for the program at the encouragement of a teacher at a summer band camp he attended two years ago.

He said that he mostly performed classical music when he started, but that he has found his niche as a jazz musician.

“It’s really fun to create music, especially jazz, where a lot of it is spontaneous and you’re improvising,” he said.

Hatamiya said that the best part of being a musician is performing for an audience.

“I really enjoy performing. It’s really satisfying and fulfilling when we are enjoying ourselves and the audience is as well. That’s the essence of what it’s all about,” Hatamiya said.

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