The ringing sound of snapping fingers puts an end to the afternoon silence. “1, 2, a, 1, 2, 3, 4” counts senior Steven Gordon as he calls the Samohi Jazz Combo rehearsal to order. Still sporting his tux from his band picture that morning, Gordon sits down to the keyboard and makes his hands at home. A few minutes pass until he briefly stands up to instruct a friend to Barnum Hall’s green room. He promptly sits back down and, as if on cue, begins the countdown again. The Jazz Combo erupts into a colorful rendition of “I’ve Got Rhythm.”
While Gordon is very committed to the Jazz Combo, his most recent accomplishment was being named the official pianist for the National Grammy Jazz Ensemble, giving him the title of one out of the nation’s top 20 high school musicians.
“When I found out I was chosen as the pianist, I was ecstatic. My mom actually wrote it down on a piece of paper, because she knew I would not believe her if she just told me. When I realized what a big honor it is, I jumped up and down, and gave my parents many hugs,” Gordon said.
According to Gordon, the audition process was very competitive and consisted of each musician submitting a 20-minute DVD, including “video footage showcasing musicianship and performing capabilities.”
“I will be participating with 20 of the country’s top high school students in an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles leading up to the 53rd annual Grammy Awards. From Feb. 4-14, we will be rehearsing and performing around Los Angeles, and doing recording sessions in the area,” Gordon said. “The night of the Grammys, the other musicians and I will be taken to the Grammy Awards at the Staples Center. The band will then play at the Grammy after-party held at the LA Convention Center where thousands of guests will attend.”
Steven Gordon has achieved greatness but is quick to give thanks to his instructors — especially Tom Whaley, the SMMUSD Arts Coordinator, who has provided him with countless opportunities, including attending state-wide jazz festivals and visiting the Grammy High School Band at USC. Also, in March of this year, Whaley will be accompanying the Samo Jazz Band to Boston’s high school jazz festival at the Berklee College of Music.
“I am very thankful to Tom Whaley for having been a mentor to me here at Samo,” Gordon said. “He has encouraged me to broaden my musical experiences from the local, to the state, and now the national level.”