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Since 2005, KNKX's School of Jazz has provided mentorship, learning and performance opportunities to Western Washington middle school, high school and college jazz students. A cornerstone of the station's signature community outreach program, it has directly impacted thousands of jazz students, band directors and professional musicians. School of Jazz is sponsored by BECU.

Guest Student DJ Sam Brink: Jazz Is A Musical Reflection

Note: Each month, KPLU invites a teen guest DJ to play his or her favorite pieces on the air.  The program is part of KPLU's School of Jazz.  

Sam Brink from Stadium High School is the Student DJ for the month of April.  Sam's hour aired from 8  to 9 p.m. on April 7.

To get to know her better we asked Sam to answer a few questions about jazz:

Which instrument do you play and why?

My primary instrument is Baritone Sax but I also play Bass Clarinet in my school’s Wind Ensemble. Back in 2010, when I was about to start middle school, my dad forced me to join the band and learn how to play an instrument. At the time, that is the last thing I wanted to do. I honestly hated the idea because I thought I would get made fun of. When the day came to choose what instrument I wanted to play, the first instrument I grabbed was the Soprano Clarinet. I successfully made some type of sound out of the horn so I just decided it was good enough. I despised playing clarinet. I could never get my fingers to cover the holes completely and my embouchure was always too loose.

Then one day, my middle school band director, Karl Ronning, introduced the Bass Clarinet to the class. Once I heard it, I was hooked. I knew that I had to play it and when I did, I started practicing much more. My whole perspective of band changed especially when Mr. Ronning told me that I should take private lessons with the great Tracy Knoop. I wouldn’t be even close to where I am now without Tracy. As my seventh grade year came to an end, Mr. Ronning asked me if I wanted to learn how to play the Baritone Sax over the summer and audition for the jazz band next school year. And with no hesitation I did exactly that and I haven’t been able to stop since.  

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece and why?

To be entirely honest, I don’t have an all-time favorite piece and I don’t know if I ever will. There are too many tunes that I hold near and dear to my heart, like "A Warm Breeze" by Sammy Nestico, "Moanin" by Charles Mingus, or "How High the Moon" by Ella Fitzgerald. All these songs make me feel different things and remind of different people and events in my life which I think it’s the reason why I find it so difficult to choose just one.

What is jazz, exactly? How would you explain it?

There are so many answers to this question. You could ask a million people and get a million different answers. The best way to understand what jazz is is to feel it and that is done going out and listening to live music and listening to the greats, in my perspective.

But if I had to write it out, I would say jazz is a very complex thing. Jazz is a musical reflection. When a musician creates music, it reflects traits like who they listen to, how they interpret swing, what they hear in their head, how much they practice, their musicality, what their good and bad days look and sound like, etc. What makes this genre of music so unique is that it gives a musician, or a group of musicians, the freedom to say anything and everything that comes across their mind in the language of music during any moment of jazz improvisation. As said by Miles Davis, “Do not fear mistakes – there are none”.

Sam's Setlist:

  1. “MARILYN” CHET BAKER (I’ll Remember April)
  5. “WIGGLE WAGGLE” HERBIE HANCOCK (Fat Albert Rotunda)
  8. “BEN’S WEB” JOHNNY HODGES/BEN WEBSTER (Complete 1960 Sextet Jazz Cellar Session)
  9. “US” THAD JONES/MEL LEWIS (Consummation)
  10. “K.C. BLUES” CHARLIE PARKER w/MILES DAVIS (Essential Charlie Parker)
  12. “NIGHT TRAIN” BUDDY MORROW (Buddy Morrow on RCA)
  13. “ONE O’CLOCK JUMP” COUNT BASIE (1965 BBC: Show of the Week)