Artem Rossin, Summer Camargo, Augustus "Gus" Allen, Joey Curreri
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Meet 4 Young & Talented Members Of GRAMMY Camp — Jazz Session
At some of the world's most prestigious and successful artists descend upon New York City for this year's GRAMMY Week, a group of 18 outstanding high school musicians from all over the country are also making the journey, thanks to the GRAMMY Museum's GRAMMY Camp —Jazz Session program.
For these young musicians, GRAMMY Week is a whirlwind of accelerated rehearsals, nonstop performances and new experiences, all leading up to attending the 60th GRAMMY Awards and their final performance at the GRAMMY Celebration, the Recording Academy's official after-party.
That's a lot of activity for a musician of any age, but this group is made up entirely of high school students. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly considering the pedigree of musicianship that comprises the band, these young players are more than up for the task.
We caught up with four members of the band before they attended Industry Insider Night event with "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" bandleader Jon Batiste and his manager and MusiCares board member Michael McDonald to talk about jazz, GRAMMY Week, school, hobbies, and more.
Summer Camargo is a 16-year-old trumpet player from Hollywood, Fla., where she attends Dillard Center for the Arts. Her excitement about being chosen for the band has been at a fever pitch ever since she found out the good news.
"I remember exactly where I was when I got the call," says Camargo. "I was in the car with my mom. I got this random call. It said California. My mom always tells me not to answer random phone calls, so I wasn't going to answer it, but my mom said, 'no, answer it!' Then they asked me if I was still interested in being in the GRAMMY band and I said, 'That would be a dream come true!' And then my mom literally screamed as if there was a cockroach right in front of her. I put my hand over my mouth and started crying and I couldn't talk, so my mom had to do all the talking."
An accomplished player already, Camargo performed at Carnegie Hall at age 12 the summer before her 8th grade year. How's that for a strong start to her career? Fittingly, her ultimate goal is to attend Julliard someday.
"When I first started out with jazz, literally the only trumpet player I knew was Miles Davis, and that's all I listened through throughout middle school," says Camargo. "I got introduced to Wynton Marsalis in 8th grade. That really helped me with developing my sound and how I improvise … that was my foundation."
Bassist Augustus "Gus" Allen is a senior at the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts in Houston, Texas. When the topic of influences came up, Allen was quick to name legendary jazz double bassist Ron Carter.
"The thing I admire most about [Carter's] playing is that he's extremely honest in what he's doing," says Allen. "He does what he wants to do. You can tell how he's feeling."
When he's not holding down the low end, Allen keeps his mind sharp through some heady reading material.
"In my free time, I actually read physics lectures and other books," says Allen. "I've been getting into [Richard] Feynman's lectures and [Erwin] Schrödinger's books. I had a really good chemistry teacher my junior year of high school. He got me hip to some things. I still want to do music, but it's interesting seeing how the universe works, or at least how we think it works."
But Allen's main focus remains in music, and his interest in looking outward toward the universe is matched only by his desire to look inward to cultivate his musical voice.
"What I'm really striving to do right now is to have more honestly in my playing, not being too contrived," says Allen. "It's good to be influenced by the people before you, but not to repeat them verbatim."
Joey Curreri hails from Marina del Rey, Calif. A senior at Hamilton High School, Curreri's trumpet chops earned him a spot in the GRAMMY band for the second consecutive year, and a trip to the nation's most active jazz breeding ground, New York.
"I think it's great to be here [in New York] because it means so much to be around all these amazing musicians because these are the people I want to be working with for the next 20, 30 years of my life," Curreri says.
Upon arriving in the city, the band went directly into the rehearsal room, diving into the material for their sets. It was here they met their leader, the esteemed Justin DiCioccio, renowned jazz educator from the Manhattan School of Music. DiCioccio, who has worked with the band for many, has earned a reputation with his students for feeling the music, empowers his students to turn the notes on the page — and in their minds — into a musical conversation from the heart.
"He does this funny thing — well what a normal person would think is silly or funny," says Curreri. "We start each rehearsal with a kind of rhythmic clapping and he does this song and dance and everything, and people are smiling and joking around, but honestly, without us even knowing he subliminally put rhythm into us, and it keeps us going for the day."
Curreri names trumpeter Clifford Brown and pianist Bill Evans as primary influence, recalling when his father dad would play the latter's albums for him growing up.
"Right now a huge influence of mine is Clifford Brown, just because of his language. You can learn almost everything you need to know about playing jazz trumpet from him," says Curreri. "These jazz legends are never trying to impress anyone. They're playing because they're making music, and that's something I strive for: to naturally create music with everything I've accumulated in my life.
"I want find a sound I'm content with that also moves an audience"
Another Californian, Artem Rossin of Walnut Creek, Calif, is a junior at Northgate High School. Rossin woodsheds on the trumpet four to five hours each day, and all this practice helped prepare Rossin for a natural transition into to the first day of GRAMMY band rehearsals.
"When Justin started having the first rehearsal with us, it felt so laid back," says Rossin. "I was still focused, but it felt so laid back and comfortable, how he came at the students with his clapping thing. It just felt so familiar, it felt like we were a band already even though we flew in from all parts of the country, we already felt synced in."
Rossin admits that his mentor played an integral role in aiding his preparation for this big week.
"My mentor, Michael Miller, helped me out with my audition and practicing," says Rossin. "He used to play lead trumpet, just like me. Now he's a producer and does a lot of mixing and recording. If I was ever to fully connect my life with music, that's what I would want to do: producing and working with artists and [learn] the business side of things."
Looking ahead, Rossin says, "My biggest goal for music as a hobby is for it to help me with my future education and help me get into a good college."
But for the moment, he's focused on doing his best to balance his passion for music with his other interests in life.
"For my free time, I'm one of those gym dudes. I had to stop because I dedicated myself to practicing more for this band, but as soon as I get back, I'll get back at it."