Since my sophomore year, in high school, I have played in a jazz band at Bradley University called, The Groove Project. In this band, I have played mainly the bari sax, but have played some tunes on the alto. The most intriguing part about this band is that we learn the music by listening to it, not by reading it on a piece of paper. Every year in February, Bradley has a Jazz Fest that invites around 15 high school jazz bands to come in play including, my own high school. Throughout the day, both of Bradley's jazz bands play as well as a special guest artist that is invited every year.
On February 21, I showed up to the student center at Bradley Univeristy thinking that it would just be another good day playing the music that I love with great people. Little did I know that for around two days, I would be a local celebrity in Peoria, Illinois.
At 10:30 that bright, sunny and gorgeous morning the Bradley Groove Project took the stage for a thirty minute performance for some of the high school's in attendance. With three tunes on our set list, we started out with a song called, "Shruggy Ji" by Red Baraat followed by Charles Mingus' "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting". Even with a little rough start as a whole, we still were able to rock out and give our crowd some intensity to carry throughout their days.
Lucky Chops are a powerhouse brass band up in New York City that is huge in New York and Europe. They are most known for a medley that they created that features "Funkytown", "I Feel Good", and "Bad Romance". With YouTube videos of them playing that medley at gigs and even at the New York subway stations throughout the city; Lucky Chops was able to thrive amongst the countless number of artists that are trying to make it big in New York City.
For our final tune, on that Tuesday morning, we performed Lucky Chops' famous medley cover. With a crazy bari sax part that was given to me; I had to be the backbone of the tune as well as keeping the energy which I had no problem with. Even as a kid, I have always loved music and cannot stop dancing when I hear a good song. With a funky beat and my crazy dance moves, the band really locked in together and we started to create some real music. As we finished "Funkytown" and began "I Feel Good" by the great, James Browm; I could only feel the intensity of the band and the crowd rise. As I started to move more and more in waiting for my big moment, the band began to groove even more. After we played the melody and bridge a few times, we switched right into "Bad Romance". The whole band began to instantly jump up and down while the tune was played. We played the chorus and bridge of the song and entered the breakdown of the medley that is literally just: craziness.
Spotlight. This was the part of the tune that every bari sax player had the chance to absolutely just full-out rock out too. With the mass craziness beginning with myself then, a siren heard from the trumpet section. The overload was funk was just beginning. While gracing back and forth through the front of the audience and occasionally spinning here and there; I began to see the crowd for the first time and their faces all filled with smiles and eyes that read, "this kid is absolutely crazy", but it's okay because I love to see that in someone's eyes.
We finally finished off the tune and the whole band including, myself was exhausted. After the performance, I was approached by a man with a camera. He told me his name and that he was with the Peoria Journal Star, my area's local newspaper. He asked me some questions about the group and who I was and what instrument I played. I just figured that I might possibly be in the newspaper so I told my parents to look out for it. Little did I know, that I'd be receiving a big surprise the next morning.
When I woke up the next morning, I thought it was going to be just another day. Well, I was wrong, it ended up being quite possibly one of the best days of my life. My mother woke me up and said, "Caleb you're on the cover of the Journal Star!". I almost didn't believe her at first until, I saw the picture of me in the middle of one of my in the air spins while playing the mass craziness part of the medley. With a very serious face and feet that were in no way close to the ground, I received many congratulations throughout the day.
I knew I would receive some congratulations and such, but I was not expecting to become a local sensation for one day. Our country has experienced some rough times lately and I never really realized that with my picture on the front cover it would provide happiness for most of the locals and that it let them know; good things can still happen. It wasn't until my band director, had sent out a mass email to the whole staff at my high school, that I knew that people really cared and were so pleased by not only seeing someone representing our school, but our community as well for something good.
For the rest of the day, I received many high fives, congratulations, and copies of the newspaper. Including, a shoutout from my band director at our mid-winter concert that night, the whole crowd immediately bursted into a cheer with a few "I love you, Caleb's!" in there as well. Like I said, I knew people I would receive some recognition, but I didn't really understand how "big" this was for our community and nation, in general. Even with explanations from my parents, on how happy they were and there views on the event; I still wasn't quite sure what all the fuss was about. I was very pleased that people were able to see me for who I was and were able to see that I love music and nothing can stop me from loving, but I didn't feel like I deserved all this attention.
The next day, I woke up believing that my one day of fame was over and that I could go back to my regular everyday life. Well, I was wrong, I continued to receive copies of the newspaper and several congratulations as well. The moment that made me realize that this was more for my community than it was for myself and it really struck me as to why people were so in awe of the event was when I received a letter. During the end of the school day, I was given a hand written letter from one of the secretaries. She told me that a lady came to the school and asked if this letter would be delivered to me. As I opened the letter, I wasn't sure what to expect. In the back of my head, I was a little confused as to who would write me a letter.
Not quite a year ago, the Bradley Groove Project performed a gig at Bradley and afterwards an elderly woman came up to me. She talked to me for around twenty to thirty minutes just telling me how she believed I had a gift and am destined to be on stage as a performer. With a story here and there of her own life in music, I became very interested into what she had to say. Ever since that day, I have always thought about what she said to me and to never give up on my dream. I will never forget that talk and I thought I'd never hear from her again. Well, again, I was wrong. The letter I received, was in fact, from her. In the letter, she included things that she had told me during our talk a year earlier and that is when I realized that it was from her. With a few tears, rolling down my cheek, I began to realize how important this was to everyone. It gave people a good thought in their minds and letting them know that good things can still happen. The future is still bright and as a whole we can and we will stick together.
Throughout this whole experience, I am truly blessed with the response that I have been given. I would like to thank everyone for allowing me to play my heart out every time I stand up on a stage and for supporting me through the thick and the thin, I appreciate it very much. I don't believe this incredible experience was necessarily meant for me, but rather for my community and for the people I get to spend every day of my life with. So I might have been that crazy bari sax kid that was on the cover of the Peoria Journal Star one day, but I will always think of that picture as a sense of unity.