Easthampton junior Brandon Paige in state music spotlight
Easthampton High School Junior Brandon Paige, 17, has been selected as one of the four trombone players statewide for the MA Music Educators Assosiation All-State conference in Boston next month. Paige practices on the trombone in band on February 6, 2013.
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Easthampton High School Junior Brandon Paige, 17, center, has been selected as one of the four trombone players statewide for the MA Music Educators Assosiation All-State conference in Boston next month. Paige practices in band on February 6, 2013, along with Leo Fish, 14, on left, and Baye Joaquin-Darrineau, 15, on right.
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EASTHAMPTON — Easthampton High School junior Brandon Paige is the kind of jazz fan who not only can play Louis Armstrong’s music, he can quote him, too.
Paige’s instrument is the trombone rather than the trumpet, but he says Armstrong has still been an inspiration for his own budding musical career.
“Louis Armstrong said, ‘If I don’t practice for one day I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, everybody knows it,’” Paige said, in a recent interview in the high school band room.
Such dedication has earned Paige a spot in the statewide musical spotlight. He is one of four high school trombone players selected in January for the Massachusetts Music Educators Association’s All-State Conference in Boston, which runs Feb. 28 to Mar. 2 and culminates in a performance in Symphony Hall.
Paige — who successfully auditioned for spots in both the state concert and jazz bands, though he could appear in only one — is the first student Easthampton has sent to the conference since 1999, according to EHS Music Director John Waynelovich. Some 800 students from 50 Massachusetts schools took part in a series of competitive auditions for this year’s gathering.
Waynelovich — a former member of the roots rock band Barefoot Truth who’s in his first year of teaching at EHS — said Paige earned a perfect score at the district competition that led to statewide auditions in Shrewsbury last month. In addition to performing a piece he’d prepared, Paige also had to play scales sight-read before a judge.
“Students like Brandon are why we’re here,” said Waynelovich, who was an All-State vocalist when he was in high school a decade ago. “I know him as a performer and what he’s capable of. It’s an exciting time for our program and for Brandon.”
Paige, a blond and lanky 17-year-old, traces his love of music to his mother’s side of the family. His mom, Marie, sang in a local dance band called The Lamplighters with her father, brothers and uncles.
“I still have eight tracks from their shows,” Paige said.
One of his great-uncles, Harvey Fournier of Chicopee, gave him his first trombone when he was around 10.
“There’s just a certain sound you can get out of a trombone that you can’t get out of any other instrument,” Paige said.
Fournier, 80, was thrilled to learn that his great-nephew will be performing at Symphony Hall.
“He’s a real natural and he works hard,” said Fournier, who still plays trombone in the Holyoke-based Senior Concert Band of Western Massachusetts. “I’ve been following him for a while and I feel honored he’s going.”
Paige had never had a music lesson outside of school until three years ago when former White Brook Middle School music director Joe Whalen put him in touch with an instructor at Westfield State University.
He also credits Patrick Lennon — a six-year veteran of the EHS music program who became music director at White Brook last year — with helping him get to the state level.
Lennon, who led the All-State jazz band at the Music Educators 2008 conference, said he was pleased but not altogether surprised by Paige’s success in this year’s competition.
“We’ve had some really talented people come through our program but someone like Brandon comes along only once every 10 years or so,” he said. “He’s definitely got a gift.”
Lennon said it’s gratifying to see a student from a small high school band program like Easthampton’s chosen for a statewide honor.
“Brandon’s now going to be looked at not just by other high school band directors, but by college ones,” Lennon said. “This is a feather in our cap and in Brandon’s.”
Paige saud performing at Symphony Hall is both a dream and a challenge.
“It’s such a humbling experience,” he said. “I know two of the other trombone players from the western district and they are amazing.”
Paige is not shy about expressing how important a role music — especially jazz — plays in his life.
“It isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am,” he said. “Music helps me when I’m confused or frustrated. I can just put my headphones on or pick up my trombone.”