Eagle Valley High School musicians Baxter, Vargas earn spots in All-State bands
GYPSUM — Brian Baxter says making All-State Jazz Band is a once-in-a-lifetime honor — an honor he has now enjoyed twice in his young life.
Baxter and Brooklyn Vargas, both Eagle Valley High School seniors, earned spots in All-State bands: Baxter’s second selection to the All-State Jazz Band as a bass player and Vargas’ first to the All-State Concert Band on the tenor sax. They were also both selected for the Western Slope Honor Jazz Band.
BYOB: Bring Your Own Bass
Baxter’s following the trail that former EVHS student and guitarist Charlie Madison blazed before him. Madison was twice selected for All-State Jazz Band. Baxter played with Madison and decided if Charlie could do it, so could he.
“If it wasn’t for Charlie I would not have been able to do this,” Baxter said. “Charlie understood the music that was written on the paper, and how to take it to a whole different level. I want to be able to enjoy music like he does.”
Speaking of a different level, Baxter plays with several bands and groups around the region, particularly Roaring Fork Valley students playing with Jazz Aspen. Those and the All-State Jazz Band players are not dabbling.
“This is what they want to do with their lives,” Baxter said.
After last year’s All-State experience his senior-year goal was set: “I needed to make All-State again,” Baxter said.
The jazz band audition is anonymous.
“They don’t want to know anything about you,” Baxter said.
They sent him music, he played it and interpreted it, recorded it and sent it back. Like most show business, they’ll call you. They did.
Music is about connections — both in the music and the musicians. The more great musicians Baxter meets, the more he gets to play with great musicians.
“It’s a small world,” Baxter said.
Vargas: Diverting her drive
Vargas is one of two tenor sax players selected for the All-State Concert Band.
When we caught up to her she was rehearsing Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” with Baxter and a handful of other musicians.
At a school like Eagle Valley, everyone plays everything — concert band, jazz band, pop band and anything else that involves pushing wind through an instrument. It’s good for them, says music department director Pat Sheehy.
Vargas is sort of a reluctant All Star. She was a standout ski racer and softball player, but some horrific knee injuries and the surgeries to put her back together left her with some time on her hands. She placed her tenor sax into her hands to fill that time, and became a dandy player.
“If I was going to do this, I was gong to do it right,” Vargas said.
She started taking lessons from Chris Harrison in Glenwood Springs, who transformed her as a player — mostly by convincing her that she could be great.
She targeted All-State band qualifiers and learned the music.
Make no mistake, it was demanding. She played two difficult pieces and the judges handed her a piece to sight read — you have to play it correctly the first time you see it, which was about as long as it took the judge to count out a downbeat: “One, two, ready, play.”
She almost didn’t make it at all. Vargas had never done anything like this and got cold feet as the auditions grew closer.
“I started thinking that I couldn’t possibly be as good as these other musicians,” she said.
She was, as Harrison, Sheehy, Baxter and lots of other folks repeatedly and passionately told her.
Still … “I was not expecting to make it,” Vargas said.
Not long afterward she received a text congratulating her for being one of two tenor sax players selected.
“I couldn’t believe it! I had my parents read it to make sure it was correct,” Vargas said. “I was on Cloud 9.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.