By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
Erika Middleton-Sharpe is a jazz musician. She wants to be the best.
After graduation from Henry M. Jackson High School, she and her upright bass will move to New York City’s artsy Greenwich Village.
Middleton-Sharpe, 18, will attend college at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
“The cool thing about the bass, it’s the foundation for every kind of modern music. It’s the instrumental backbone,” she said.
Her senior year was punctuated by trips to top music schools. Before choosing The New School, she auditioned at the New England Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music, both in Boston, and at Michigan State University. “I ended up being accepted to all of them with scholarships,” she said.
She was in Manhattan last year when Jackson’s Honors Wind and Percussion Ensemble played Carnegie Hall. That trip helped clinch her college choice. “There’s something so electric about New York,” she said.
Bruce Staelens, a trumpeter on the faculty at Music Works Northwest in Bellevue, has been her most influential teacher. Middleton-Sharpe studied there and performs with his jazz combo. She has played at Tula’s and Bake’s Place, jazz clubs in Seattle and Bellevue. Performing can mean late nights for a student with 6:30 a.m. jazz classes at school.
“Even as a freshman, she was dragging her bass around and keeping up with everything,” said Birgitte McIntosh, a Jackson counselor.
Middleton-Sharpe struggled with math but loves reading. “Clockwork Orange” and “The Things They Carried” are favorite books, and she liked Nick Nicoletta’s UW English class at Jackson.
Before getting serious about music, she was a competitive figure skater. “That ended when I grew,” she said. Being 6-foot-1 could be a plus if she pursues another interest — fashion modeling. She works part-time at Nordstrom and is keen on style.
“Whether I wanted to or not, I always stood out,” she said.
Class of 2013