Alec Mauro proves valley players can jazz up their futures | VailDaily.com

Alec Mauro proves valley players can jazz up their futures

BEAVER CREEK — Young Alec Mauro was in Boston, waiting anxiously to audition for one of the nation's most prestigious music schools when his mom called. She peppered him with a barrage of questions, as all moms do, which he happily answered in complete sentences without once uttering "like" and calmly told his mother he loves her.

Then he strolled in and crushed that audition, winning a four-year scholarship to Boston's Berklee College of Music.

You get to see what Berklee sees Wednesday night when Alec joins Tony Gulizia in a benefit for the Very Young Composers program, a program of the Vail Valley Foundation's YouthPower365. It's where Alec got one of his first tastes of composing and performing his own music.

"This community produced me, and I'm proud to call it home," Alec said. "Kids need to know that it's possible to make a career of music, and Very Young Composers can help them achieve this dream."

Me and Tony G

Even jazz musicians can get there from here, but sometimes you have to get away from here.

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Alec is starting his senior year of high school at Michigan's Interlochen Arts Academy, the world's premier fine arts boarding high school. The alumni list is long and impressive, and includes 17 Tony Award winners this year alone.

"Creativity is important, and it's important to give kids an outlet to express themselves," Alec said.

A decade ago, Gulizia flipped a switch in young Alec, and it stayed flipped.

"Without mentors like Tony Gulizia, I would be nowhere in music," Alec said. "Tony gave me the opportunity to play somewhere besides my basement."

Alec was attending Vail Mountain School, earning a 4.0 GPA, playing music and performing with the Vail Performing Arts Academy, which taught him how to be on stage, he said. He won the Helmut Fricker music scholarship three time, and auditioned for every music camp he could find.

"Kids in cities have the opportunity to regularly play with other young musicians at a high level," said his mom, Mindy Brill.

For years Tony Mauro — Alec's dad and local radio legend — and Mindy spent six hours a day, two days a week driving back and forth to Denver so Alec could get the kind of instruction he needed and could play with other students who shared his passion. The two-hour lessons ran from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. From 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. he'd practice with other young jazz players at the Colorado Conservatory of Jazz Arts.

Sure that's more time on the road than a set of Firestones, but Tony's philosophical about it, pointing out that it's several hours a day they got to spend with their son, and that most parents would commit six of the seven deadly sins for that kind of time.

Young Alec was 7 years old when he wrestled an upright bass into the standing position and started thumping away. He liked it, he said, because he got to play all the time, and because the vibrations "made my stomach feel good."

He picked up a saxophone in third grade and started taking group lessons. His teacher spent about 15 minutes of every lesson on jazz. A month or so later, he the teacher cornered Tony and Mindy and said, "He's going to be a jazz musician."

'I have to get better'

Alec turned the corner during a Juilliard Jazz Intensive when he was surrounded by amazing young musicians. He sat there shell-shocked.

His parents told him he could quit if he wanted to.

"No," he responded, "I have to get better."

And he did.

He was First Chair for multiple years in a couple different Colorado All State bands. He attended Reggie Schive Jazz Camp, Juilliard Jazz Intensive, Interlochen Summer Jazz Intensive, Berklee Five Week Summer Performance Program with highest Merit Scholarship … almost everywhere talented musicians gather to learn and improve.

He kept traveling to Denver several times a week to learn and play, but it was soon obvious that for Alec and his saxophone to soar, they'd have to fly beyond the valley.

He applied to Interlochen and was accepted. At Interlochen he still gets great grades, earning High Honors For Academics at Interlochen, he's vice president of the student body and is the student admissions representative for the jazz department.

Interlochen has produced 40 Presidential Scholars, a record unmatched by any school in the United States, public or private. Alumni include singer-songwriter Jewel, actress Felicity Huffman, jazz drummer Peter Erskine and car designer Bill Zheng. More than 10 percent of the nation's orchestral musicians can claim roots at either Interlochen Arts Academy or Camp.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If You Go

What: Local jazz legend-in-the-making Alec Mauro playing a benefit for the Very Young Composers program.

When: Wednesday evening at 7:30

Where: Grouse Mountain Grill, in Beaver Creek’s Pines Lodge

Information: Alec Mauro will play with Tony Gulizia beginning at 7:30 p.m. Cash or check donations to the Very Young Composers program are optional and strongly recommended. Donations will be collected at the event.

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