Eagle Valley’s Charlie Madison makes All-State jazz band for second year
March 29, 2017
GYPSUM — Charlie Madison stood center stage with the All-State jazz band like he had been there before, because he had.
Madison, an Eagle Valley High School senior, is one of the only jazz players selected for the prestigious All-State band for the second straight year. The gig was earlier this winter. The directors sent the music, everyone learned it on their own, rehearsed it a few times together and hit the stage. Nothing to it, if you're good, and Madison is.
No audition angst
Jazz is like life. You play it. You listen to it. You live it. If you're Charlie Madison then you do them all at the same time.
Judges were looking for the same things players would be if Madison were auditioning for a spot in a band — including creative melodies and clean chord changes.
The audition is not complicated, but nerve-racking. Think of one of those vote-'em-off-the-stage singer shows and you have an idea what it was like.
You send in a tape. A panel of judges listens to it and picks the players they like.
Players have to sight read, which is hard for most guitar players, but not Madison. Then you perform a couple classic jazz tunes, improvise some 12-bar blues and do some other stuff. If they like you, then they invite you to join their band.
Everything is anonymous, so no one gets to whine about teachers' pets.
The judges send an email to let you know if you're in or out, the same email they send to everyone else — an electronic version of your junior high basketball coach who posted a list on the bulletin board to tell the world who made the cut.
"You have to put yourself out there," Madison said.
All That Jazz
Madison started playing when he was 9 years old and was bitten by the jazz bug in the middle school jazz band.
He spends hours a day with a guitar in his hands. Look closely. He left those worn spots on his fret board with his fingers.
He went to a jazz camp the summer after his freshman year at Eagle Valley and learned how music is constructed, both as art and science. These days Madison spends most of his summers at jazz camps. Those camps connected him to other jazz players around the state, and eventually to the All-State jazz band.
"There are not a lot of jazz musicians in Gypsum to play with," Madison said. "Now I know people who play music all over Colorado. Most of them are in Denver and Boulder, but there are several players in this part of the state I can get together with."
There's a music teacher in Rifle who used to teach at the Berklee College of Music, one of the top music schools in the country. Madison asked him very politely for some lessons. They get together at a library in Glenwood Springs and break most of the silence-in-the-library rules.
"Free Bird" isn't free
Please, don't ask him to play "Free Bird." Yeah, it's one of the all-time great rock anthems, but c'mon.
"When you play guitar people want to know, 'Do you play 'Free Bird?'" Madison said.
Yes, is the short answer, but do not ask that.
He started taking jazz lessons when he lived in Grand Junction. Like most players, rock music was what he heard and played — Led Zeppelin mostly, because, well … Jimmy Page, that's why.
Madison will graduate in a few weeks. His high school diploma should be emblazoned with, "Plays well with others."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.