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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.

School of Jazz guest DJ for May: Nate Wray

courtesy of Nate Wray

Alto-saxophonist Nate Wray from Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie will join Abe Beeson as guest DJ during Evening Jazz at 7 p.m. He is in the school band and they are going to compete in the Essentially Ellington Competition in New York this weekend. Get to know him in this Q&A, and check out his playlist.

Which instrument do you play and why?
I play the alto saxophone. I was inspired at first by my older brother, who is two years older than me and picked up the saxophone when he was in middle school. I continued to play because of the jazz greats that I’ve been inspired by, such as John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. I’ve also been inspired largely because of the jazz community in the valley, which has been fostered by Mount Si High School’s band program as well as Danny Kolke and his program Jazz Clubs Northwest.

What’s your all-time favorite jazz piece?
"A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane. His four-part composition has spiritual elements in it that access a feeling that is hard to describe. The music is spectacular.

Who is your jazz hero?
John Coltrane. Every note he plays shines and resonates so well, he has a beautiful sound.

Why jazz?
First and foremost, I believe it is important to recognize that jazz is Black American music, and its history is directly related to the history of Black oppression in America. The music we love and listen to today is pioneered by the artists who faced or continue to face systemic racism, and I think the process of creating art in the face of adversity is part of why the music taps into so many emotions and brings joy to a lot of people. Jazz is often described as America’s classical music, and I think part of why is because of this. Being someone who doesn’t experience racial oppression, I am privileged to be able to play Black American music. My goal is to continue to study and enjoy this music for the rest of my life, because it brings me joy.


"Black & Tan Fantasy" Duke Ellington (The Duke: Columbia Years)

"What a Wonderful World" Louis Armstrong (What a Wonderful World)

"Airegin" Wes Montgomery (Incredible Jazz Guitar)

"Ferguson - An American Tradition" Immanuel Wilkins (Omega)

"Walkin' and Swingin'" Mary Lou Williams (Queen of Jazz Piano)

"Koko" Charlie Parker (Complete Savoy and Dial Masters)

"I Got Rhythm" Sonny Stitt (The Hard Swing)

"Manteca" Arturo Sandoval (Trumpet Evolution)

"Lonely Woman" Ornette Coleman (The Shape of Jazz to Come)

"After the Rain" Kenny Garrett (Pursuance: Music of John Coltrane)

Follow Nate Wray @nate._.wray on Instagram.