Delta High School has produced some outstanding musicians, many of whom have gone on to pursue careers as teachers and performers. But few have been able to mix vocal and instrumental music as successfully as DHS senior Jake Johnson.
This year he achieved a "trifecta" by qualifying for All State Choir, All State Jazz Band and All State Band, a remarkable feat that's not been achieved during the administration of principal Derek Carlson or his predecessor, Kurt Clay.
He's enjoyed "the best of both worlds," Jake said, but when pressed says he's primarily an instrumentalist. That's where his interest in music began, and that's where it will take him in the future as he pursues a degree in music education at the University of Utah next fall.
Music was a big part of his dad's life throughout his childhood, but Jake didn't start to develop his own talent until he took up the trumpet in sixth grade band. He chose the trumpet for a simple reason — it has just three valves as opposed to the clarinet or saxophone, which have multiple keys.
"That was my first taste of real music for myself," he said. "My first band instructor was Josiah St. Peter. Early on he recognized a spark of talent within me and he was able to nurture that. He taught me a passion for music and how to use it."
Jake still has his "starter" trumpet, and occasionally pulls it out for marching demonstrations, but in the eighth grade his parents gave him a shiny new Jupiter Tribune for Christmas. Over the years, Jake has also become proficient on guitar, and he recently took up another stringed instrument, the mandolin. He plays a bit of piano, drums and clarinet, and has mastered most of the brass instruments. As a music education major, he'll be expected to be knowledgeable about all types of brass and woodwind instruments — clearly, he's got a great start.
He didn't begin singing in public until his sophomore year, when his friend Hank Mason, a two-time All-State Choir qualifier, encouraged him to join the choir. "I gave it a shot and it kind of stuck," Jake said.
It's that kind of statement that prompts Tambyr Reed, DHS vocal instructor, to comment that Jake is an "an incredibly humble musician, almost to a fault. He doesn't brag or boast about his talents, which gives him a true love and respect from his peers,"
She continued, "When I first began working with Jake, he really didn't believe that he had the kind of vocal ability that would take him to places like All-State Choir. Once we started working on opening up his range his sophmore year, his tone become freer and relaxed and the beauty of his voice began to come through. The following fall, Jake worked diligently to perfect his solo and musicianship to audition for All-State and his dedication was rewarded. After he made All-State, Jake's voice and confidence in his voice began to grow exponentially. He auditioned for more solos, and was one of the leads in our musical 'Hello, Dolly!' last spring. This year, he has maintained his growth vocally, sight reading music and singing a capella with agility and strength. He has been a driving force in the men's section of choir and will be greatly missed as he graduates on to bigger and better things."
In addition to singing the national anthem a capella for athletic events and community gatherings, Jake sings at church and at home, usually accompanying himself on the guitar. One of his favorite pastimes is taking popular rock songs and giving them "new flavor" with his acoustic guitar.
Jake's college preference began with a basic Google search for highly regarded music schools. The University of Utah was one of the schools that came up, and since he has relatives in the Salt Lake City area, he decided to take a closer look.
"It seems like a really good fit for me," Jake said. Ultimately he would like to teach band at the high school level. His decision is inspired, in part, by Andrew Bruington, his current band instructor.
"Mr. Bruington demonstrates a love of music that really comes across to his students," Jake said. "He's taught me how to have fun and how to enjoy your job. They say if you like your job, you don't work a day in your life, and I don't believe Mr. Bruington has ever worked."
Jake got a taste of directing as drum major for the DHS marching band two years running. That experience taught him how to work with others, and how to encourage them to reach for a higher standard. Leading by doing comes naturally. After daily band rehearsals, he heads to a practice room with his trumpet to polish up his fundamentals.
"Jake has been a terrific student that I have had the privilege of instructing for the past five years," Bruington said. "In that time he has grown as a musician and as a person. He is one student who I can always rely on. He has been a terrific asset to Delta and it is sad that he is leaving."
While he has thoroughly enjoyed marching band, Jake really shines in concert band, where he can compete as an individual. Jake has regularly qualified for every county and regional honor band since he was in middle school, often sitting in the principal chair. He first qualified for All-State Jazz Band as a freshman, and has since been selected three out of four years.
Forced to sit out one year, Jake decided to use that experience for his benefit. "I locked myself in my room and practiced for days," he said. When the next year rolled around, he not only qualified for All-State Jazz Band, he was named first chair.
That experience underscored the importance of practice. Jake recognizes some people are born with natural talent; other people gain talent through practice. He believes his musical abilities are about one-quarter talent and three-quarters dedication and diligence.
When he plays trumpet, Jake said there's a certain tone he's always listening for — a big, powerful tone, with lots of fanfare. "It just feels comfortable. If I'm able to blow through all the notes freely and just play, that's a good day for me."
Selection to All-State Choir is proof Jake is a well-rounded, talented musician. Over 2,000 vocalists audition for one of three choirs — a men's choir, a women's choir and a mixed choir.
Jake has found the All-State experience meaningful for several reasons. First, he's been able to watch and learn from some of the state's most talented musicians. Second, he's made a lot of great friends. Finally, he's been able to travel across the state and perform at places like the Wells Fargo Theatre in downtown Denver and the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.
His music has also taken him to Europe, where he visited seven countries with the Colorado Ambassadors of Music.
At the University of Utah, he plans to participate in marching band, at least the first couple of years, so there may be additional opportunities to travel. Last year the marching band went to Arizona, where the Utah Utes played Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Back at home, Jake has been a member of the Valley Symphony Orchestra since eighth grade and in the past played with the Montrose Community Band. He still sits in on their concerts occasionally, and takes private trumpet lessons from Keith Acuncius, the band instructor at Olathe/Middle High School.
When he's not performing or practicing, Jake likes to read, especially J.R.R. Tolkien, and play golf. He was on the golf team all four years at DHS and made varsity his senior year. He managed the girls' swim team and is a member of the National Honor Society and College For Every Student. He has a GPA of 3.83 and said his favorite classes are those that allow his creative juices to flow — band, choir and language arts.
He is one of three DHS finalists for the Daniels Fund Scholarship, and said he was honored and excited to be interviewed for the prestigious award last week. Because the interview took place the same day as All-State Symphonic Band, at a location across the state, he had to forego his farewell performance with the symphonic band. With the maturity of a young man about to set out on his own, he recognized the interview far outweighed any band performance.
Jake could be considered serious by some of his classmates, but he says he tries to enjoy life and have fun whenever he can. During the selection of "Senior Favorites," he was awarded "Best Hair." The secret to good hair? "There is no secret. I just try to comb it and keep it out of my face."
Like most graduating seniors, he's anxious to see what the world has to offer. He's appreciative for everything Delta High School teachers and coaches have done to prepare him for life after high school, but he's ready to experience big- city living.
He'll carry with him the lessons he's learned, particularly through extracurricular activities, and lofty ambitions that soar as high as the notes emanating from his trumpet.
"The greatest part about teaching Jake is knowing that he has the ambition to be a teacher himself and pass on music to the next generation, which means that I have done my job as a music educator," Bruington said.blog comments powered by Disqus