MONROE — Thomas Cripe, 18, of Maltby, is the lead drum major at Monroe High School. He’s been learning the double bass for the past three years and he’s played in jazz combos outside of school. He’s also an Eagle Scout.
Q: So you do music?
A: I’m in band. … You’ll see me up there conducting and doing all the parade stuff. I play upright bass in band. Also, I’m in the honor jazz choir, which is fun — but I have to get up at 6:50 a.m., and be here early in the morning before any classes. I’m also in the drama program, doing the musicals and all those shows. So it’s kind of my life, a little bit, but I enjoy it.
Q: So if you’re the drum major, did you start out playing drums?
A: Drum major just means you’re kind of the leader of the band. Everyone asks, ‘Do you play drums?’ I’m like, ‘No, I don’t, but I wish.’ But I started out playing baritone saxophone, the big ones, my freshman year. Switched to upright bass my sophomore year. Then since junior year I’ve been a drum major.
Q: What inspired you to pick baritone sax?
A: I started in middle school playing in band. I actually started on clarinet. I started out alto, but realized it wasn’t for me. I like that big, meaty low sound. There were all these different jazz players that I’d listened to, who played lots of bari, and I really enjoyed those, it kind of pushed me toward that.
Q: Any influences or artists that you really like?
A: Oof. I could go on forever. Dizzy Gillespie. Chet Baker is one of the biggest ones, especially now that I’ve switched to bass — I know he’s a trumpet player, but just listening to his music.
Q: And Chet Baker could both sing and play.
A: Exactly. Now in the jazz choir, I’m singing and playing bass, because we don’t have a bass player. So I’m doing the same thing.
Q: Do you have a favorite song, in band?
A: Orchestra-wise, the Nutcracker Suite, we played it during our winter set. I’ve always loved the Nutcracker. “Waltz of the Flowers” is probably my favorite song, all-time. And then marching-wise, “Everybody’s Everything.” The UW band plays it, and they always go crazy into it, and I love it, so we play it here, too. It reminds me of some people who used to be here, that I miss very much.
Q: Do you prefer being on the conducting side or the playing side?
A: That’s a hard one. I can appreciate both aspects. I love being able to help lead the band, and put it all together, and see all the smiling faces, and lead the music from the front. But at the same time I also love being part of the whole. I’ve played my whole life, so it’s kind of like being in my zone. It makes me feel at home.
Q: Do you listen to jazz outside of school?
A: I’ll listen to jazz, I’ll listen to classical, I listen to rap, some old school R&B, and even, like, some hardcore, kind of heavy metal stuff, too — I listen to just about everything you can think of. My music taste is always changing.
Q: And you’re an Eagle Scout? Or going to be an Eagle Scout?
A: Yeah, actually my ceremony is this weekend (Jan. 12).
Q: Can you tell me about your Eagle project?
A: I’m part of Troop 39. We meet up in Maltby, at this place called the Maltby Community Club. There’s this garden area in the back section of the plot of land. It used to be used for weddings, and it used to be this beautiful spot. But over the last few years it’s been just destroyed by weather. So I decided for my project we were going to completely redo it. Ripped out all the dirt. Ripped out an old broken arbor that was there. Ripped out all these plants. Realigned the little brick wall. Pressure-washed the whole thing. Built a stone path. Built a new arbor. Planted new plants. Filled the whole thing up with new dirt mulch. And it looks fantastic. I believe it took about three days.
Q: Have you figured out what you want to do in college?
A: If I end up going to UW, I’ll probably end up double-majoring in a bachelor of arts (and a degree in) either law or business. Not quite sure which one yet. And if I don’t go to UW, I’ll probably end up doing law or business, and forget the music part, and just keep it on my own time.
Q: Do your jazz groups outside of school have a name?
A: So the jazz combo that is still active goes by Kelsey and the Boys, because the piano player is named Kelsey. We’re currently looking for gigs, as well, so if this is publicity, we’ll take it. Our band director wouldn’t let us do Kelsey and the Big Men. So we went with (the Boys).
Q: Are you guys all big?
A: We’re pretty tall.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.