High school student invited to play in Grammy jazz band

SACRAMENTO - For the last 30 years, the Jazz Band at Rio Americano High School has been invited to play in gigs across the country, but now one of their own has been selected to play at one of thebiggest musical stages in the world: the Grammy Awards.

"I got a call, and it was someone from the Grammy Foundation, and they said you've been accepted to play in this band," trumpet player Andrew Stephens said. "I like jumped around. I was pretty ecstatic."

With a musical talent well beyond his years, Stephens, a senior at Rio Americano,, has been selected to play in the Grammy Camp Jazz Session. He calls it thechance of a lifetime.

Stephens is one of 32 students in the country who will travel to Los Angeles for a week-long musical adventure surrounding the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.

"It's an incredible feeling to be part of it," Stephens said.

Stephens will play with and in front of the top musicians in the industry. He and his peers will also record at Capitol Records in Hollywood and get their musicpublished on iTunes. The students will also attend the 2014 Grammy Awards on Jan. 26.

"I think it'll give me a lot of experience and I think it will be kind of humbling to be around so many people that just know everything about music," Stephens said.

He has just a few weeks to learn the compositions, which he's already received in the mail.

"Parts of them are really difficult. They're really high and really fast, but mostly they're just all really, really good pieces of music,"Stephens said.

He said he's not nervous, just excited.

The crescendo for this humble musician: "I'm going to see Stevie Wonder play there. I'd hope to meet him, maybe."

The invitation is an opportunity Stephens never could have imagined just seven years ago when he picked up the trumpet for the first time while at a friend's birthday party at age 11.

He started taking lessons and they quickly struck a chord. Stephens made the Rio Americano top-tier jazz band as a freshman -- a rarity in the competitive program.

"He came in and took a solo on the very first day. He was about four measures into it and the seniors all looked at each other and went, this kid can play," said Josh Murray, Rio Americano Jazz Band director.

Murray said Stephens exceeded his expectations early on.

"It takes years to build up the kind of endurance it takes to play trumpet, and some people never get there. Each year he's been stronger and he's been able to play more and he's been able to play higher parts and been more and more reliable as a musician, and it's been really, really fun to watch."

"It's kind of a love-hate relationship, because trumpet is really hard. I get hurt a lot on my lip and stuff, but I don't think I could really go that long without playing it," Stephens said.

After finishing up his memorable senior year, Stephens hopes to attend a California college in the fall. He wants to earn a double-major in math and music and become a professional musician.


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