Andrew Sumabat, who plays three instruments in the Mountlake Terrace jazz band, said he was star struck when he met with jazz great Wynton Marsalis during the Essentially Ellington competition in New York City. “Wynton is one of my idols.”
Question: You’ve had a lot of amazing experiences in the past few weeks with the Mountlake Terrace jazz band participating in the Essentially Ellington competition in New York City. What was that like?
Answer: So this is my senior year. I never thought I’d be able to go. Essentially Ellington was something I had dreamed about since sixth grade. It was that big a deal. I saw videos on YouTube from bands from previous years. I was like, “Man, I’ve got to be there.” That dream stayed with me. That dream came through this year.
Q: How many jazz bands were there?
A: Fifteen from across America. We made friends with people from other schools.
Three of the schools were from the Seattle area: Edmonds Woodway, Mountlake Terrace and Mount Si (from Snoqualmie). All the other Washington schools chanted “425” as (the members of the other local bands) were going on stage.
Q: What else happened while you were there?
A: The best thing about Essentially Ellington is you have easy access to the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and could pick their brains.
On the third day we performed. After we performed, I saw Wynton Marsalis in the theater. He said, ‘Man, you sounded so good on three different instruments.’ Wynton is one of my idols. I was so shocked. He had really good things to say about my playing. I was star struck.
Q: And you won the tripler award, that’s for someone who excels on three instruments, and yours were tenor saxophone, trumpet and trombone. What was it like to have it presented by Marsalis?
A: He called my name. Oh man, it was crazy. I walked onto the stage and everyone stood up and clapped for me.
Q: There were other awards for the jazz band, too?
A: Our brass section got honorable mention. The guitar player got honorable mention. Our lead tenor sax got outstanding tenor saxophone.
Q: Did you get time to tour in New York City?
A: Yes we had two-and-a-half days of absolutely free time. We explored the Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center memorial, Chinatown, Battery Park and Little Italy, Midtown, the U.N., the Chrysler Building and Central Park.
Q: How old were you when you became interested in music?
A: I was fifth grade band at the Edmonds School District quad concert where elementary, middle school, high school symphonic band, and the jazz ensemble 1 performed. This would have been 2011. The Jazz 1 group performed and I thought it was the best performance I had ever seen.
Q: You participate in the Bellevue College jazz band, too?
A: This year I joined the Bellevue College jazz band through Running Start, with Monday and Wednesday night rehearsals.
Q: Have you ever had stage fright?
A: I’ve never had stage fright when it comes to playing an instrument. It feels pretty natural to me. I can go on stage and it can be pretty relaxing. I just jet up there and do my thing.
Q: How much time do you spend practicing each week?
A: I’d say about an hour on each instrument — tenor sax and alto sax, trombone and trumpet.
Q: Do you have a favorite instrument?
A: So far, the tenor saxophone. I picked up trumpet about a year ago. I picked up saxophone in January. I try to take what I learned on trombone and apply it to those instruments.
Q: You’ll be attending the University of Washington in the fall. Will music be part of your activities?
A: I plan on joining the UW jazz band. More and more I’m starting to want to pursue music as a career. I’m not completely sure yet. Essentially Ellington was like a life-changing experience.
Q: You took STEM courses in high school?
A: Yes, I’m graduating I think with an honors STEM diploma.
Q: What courses did you take?
A: My first year, introduction to engineering design; my second year, principles of engineering; my third year, aerospace engineering; and this year, they combined the senior STEM with English class.
Q: You took AP courses, too?
A: I took the most rigorous courses I could. This year I was taking AP government and politics, AP calculus, AP biology. I’m doing Spanish 2, Jazz ensemble and English 12.
Q: What was your GPA?
Q: Any advice for fellow students?
If you’re starting out in high school, take the hardest classes you can and try to figure out what you like and don’t like. You can explore the things you like to see if it’s a possible career option. I took AP biology to see if I wanted to do medicine. But I didn’t like it that much. Things like that are very helpful in helping me decide what I want to do.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.