EAGLE – Kurt Sepmeier oozes jazz. He practices saxophone up to twelve hours a day, filled up 20 gigs worth of memory on his computer with jazz tunes in two weeks and has riffed at El Chapultepec, the noted Denver bebop haunt. He even speaks in the jaunty, hushed tones of a true hepcat, so it’s really shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s the first Eagle Valley High School student in recent history to make both All-State Jazz and All-State Concert Band.”I was really confident about All-State Jazz, but for All-State Concert, I was a little iffy,” Sepmeier says. “When it comes to jazz tone, it doesn’t have to be perfect as long as it’s straight. (The audience will) actually applaud for flaws sometimes. But for concert band, it’s much more dependent on tone as well as quality of playing.”Needless to say, 18-year-old Sepmeier nailed it. Jazz band required him to send in a recorded performance of scales, improvisation and performance, while concert band relied on a live audition. Eagle Valley High School music director Pat Sheehy, besides being proud of his student, insists that the accomplishment is a rare feat indeed.”I’ve been here for eighteen years, and this is the first time I’ve heard of it,” he says. “Certainly for as long as I’ve been at the high school, which is ten years. All-State band is hard enough as it is, but All-State Jazz is really hard. In each band, they choose two alto saxes, two tenors and one (baritone) for all the major high schools in the state, so he was up against quite a few other students.”Sepmeier is immersed in jazz culture, but his original inspiration is decidedly a benchmark from the pop-culture canon: “The Simpsons.””It’s a weird inspiration, but I watched ‘The SImpsons’ and saw Lisa Simpson playing, and it looked like fun, so I thought I’d go from there,” he says. “My parents purchased an alto sax – they didn’t know the difference – and later, I heard about jazz and Lester Young. Eventually, I was given the tenor sax, both for the sound and to replace another player.”What began as a school activity soon took over his spare time, and his teachers provided both guidance and inspiration as he developed his talent.”For freshman year, I was only getting an hour a day, but I kicked things up and on good days I get twelve – I never get tired. There’s nothing much else to do and it’s really fun,” Sepmeier says. “I studied with Keith Oxman, who plays and teaches. He always had a weekend job playing at El Chapultepec, and his students could go and listen – we even had the opportunity to sit in. He really got me started on (jazz) theory and a whole bunch of players connected to that scene. His collection of jazz music and videos is just phenomenal.”As Sepmeier prepares to graduate, jazz and saxophone will remain at the center of his life and priorities – but some of the big decisions can wait until college. (Sepmeier is considering attending Colorado State at Pueblo).”I was planning on going to college for music performance and if not that, music education,” he says. “The music education system is lacking in many areas, so I could help that, but for music performance, I would have to head to a big scene, like New York. I’m waiting until college to make the decision.”Either way, we can dig it.Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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