The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Junior Plays Bass at All-State Conference

While most students were hitting the slopes this winter break, junior Mikailo Kasha was hitting the notes at the California All-State Music Education Conference in Fresno. Mikailo was the only upright bass player in the entire state to be selected for the California All-State high school jazz band.

The annual conference ran from February 20-23 and was a collection of clinics for band directors and performances by students hosted by California’s most prominent music education associations. Consisting of only junior high and high school students, the All-State bands, which range from classical to jazz, performed assigned pieces in concerts after a day or two of preparation in clinics.
Students selected to the All-State bands were required to audition two months before the conference. Mikailo received a message in January that notified him of his acceptance.

“[The school jazz ensemble director], Mr. [Ted] Ferrucci, told our seventh period band about this organization’s conference,” Mikailo said. “I prepared a week or two [before recording the CD] and practiced the tunes maybe 10 times within 2 weeks… I honestly didn’t think I would get in. I was kind of shocked, and then I was like ‘Okay, I can do this’… I was thrilled.”

After being accepted, Mikailo was required to turn in registration forms and fees, which cost around 400 dollars, in addition to preparing for the actual conference.

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“The organization sent me the music in a package, and there were seven tunes but two of the tunes were about 15 pages long,” Mikailo said. “I played through them, and they [weren’t] too hard.”
Upon arriving at Fresno, Mikailo reported to his first rehearsal with the band.

“We played our first time through the program, and I got lost because I [didn’t practice enough],” Mikailo said. “The band director expects you to have everything ready by the first rehearsal.”

After meeting and rehearsing with his bandmates, Mikailo was awed by the distinct personalities and talents of the players.

“The guitarist had never played jazz before,” Mikailo said. “He plays progressive metal, but when he soloes, it’s just a blur. Our excellent vibes player was the only girl, and our piano player was off the charts. The drummer was zoning out the whole time, while the trumpet players complained about how the classical trumpet players couldn’t hit the high notes.”

For the next two days, Mikailo followed a strict schedule of three hour practices, meals and sleep. Before his big concert on Friday night, Mikailo attended an exposition, which featured booths from music companies and colleges from all over California, as well as a celebratory dinner with his bandmates.

Then it was showtime. Mikailo believes the concert was the best he has ever played.

“I could not sleep [after the concert],” Mikailo said. “I would lie in bed for hours and be like, ‘That was awesome.’ I’d listen to the recording again and think, ‘I can’t listen to this or else I can’t go to sleep,’ but then listen to the recording again.”

Returning to his school life two days later, Mikailo maintains that the conference was a beneficial experience.

“[Being in the All-State band] was an amazing feeling,” Mikailo said. “I miss it… I want to go back and play with that group. They’re so good…I definitely would do it again.”

His path to success began 13 years ago, when Mikailo began taking private piano lessons. He later transitioned to play saxaphone and cello and became involved in the elementary school band and orchestra.

“I don’t actually know why [I chose two instruments],” Mikailo said. “I was just like ‘Why not?’… I stopped saxaphone and played only cello in sixth grade because you can’t do both band and orchestra in middle school.”

In addition to being in the jazz band, Mikailo began playing his main instrument, upright bass, in the Graham Middle School classical orchestra.

Mikailo acquired his first taste for serious jazz in the summer after freshman year. He attended the Florida State University summer jazz camp where he learned the basics of jazz from professor Rodney Jordan, a member of the acclaimed Marcus Roberts trio.

That same summer, Mikailo had the experience that inspired him the most to pursue jazz. On a trip up to New Jersey to visit his uncle, he attended a Paquito D’Rivera jazz concert at the Blue Note Cafe in New York. D’Rivera is a Grammy award-winning Cuban alto saxophonist, clarinetist and soprano saxophonist.

“It was my first time seeing anybody who was super good at jazz,” Mikailo said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ I went back to the house in New Jersey, and I just looked through all the records we had, all the CD’s. I looked for anything jazz and put it on my computer and just listened to it. [Since] I didn’t actually have a bass [in New Jersey], I would just imagine I was playing [what I was listening]. I’d try to play the notes [in air] and figure out how I would’ve played it if I had a bass with me.”

By then, Mikailo was hooked on jazz and knew that he would never return to his classical roots. His parents invested in a starter upright bass for him; once sophomore year began, he joined the school’s jazz ensemble and continued playing with the zero period jazz class, where he plays electric and upright bass, piano and the marimba.

After the school year ended, Mikailo auditioned for and was accepted into the Stanford Summer Jazz Workshop. Officially an adult-only program, the workshop accepts under-18 musicians only through very selective auditions. Mikailo received a $1,000 scholarship in addition to his acceptance and played with students from all around the country.

“Larry Grenadier, who is [an awesome] bass player…taught me lots of things that made me enjoy playing bass more,” Mikailo said. “He had us all prepare a song to play, and we’d play our song the next day. You [would] get to see how good you were compared to everyone else.”

Currently, Mikailo is the school’s jazz ensemble bassist, plays saxaphone in zero period jazz and plays bass in the audition-only San Jose Jazz All-Stars high school band, a separate year-round group.

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