Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Roosevelt High School all-star quintet shows off their talents

Ways To Subscribe

The jazz program at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School has a rich tradition dating back to 1969. But on a recent Monday in KNKX's Studio X, five of the school’s top players weren't concerned with the past. They were in the moment and celebrating their own accomplishments, which are many.

Following the long tenures of jazz band directors Waldo King and Scott Brown, Hannah Mowry is in her second year leading the school’s much-heralded big band.

Like her predecessors, Mowry provides continuity in a constant cycle of change. She said the regular turnover of students graduating and those just beginning is a challenge, but the incoming students arrive already committed to the program.

Bassist Annie Faul is one of those younger band members who came to Roosevelt well-prepared. This was her second KNKX School of Jazz appearance after performing a session a couple years earlier with a great band from Eckstein Middle School.

The Roosevelt band earned rave reviews for their recent performance at the annual Hot Java Cool Jazz concert at Seattle’s Paramount Theater. On April 17, they’ll open for the exceptional University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band and vocal group on the RHS stage.

Mowry explained that the music’s fleeting nature means getting experience on stage is critical to their education. “What’s a jazz musician without gigs?” she laughed.

Senior saxophonists Taiyo Fuwa and Henry Kelly both sang their band director’s praises, pointing to her energy as key to keeping this young group excited about playing.

Drummer Alexander Polyakovski, another Roosevelt High senior, said with over a hundred years of recorded jazz, his generation can “steal from this era, steal from that style, and together with these incredible musicians we can create our own music.”

Sophomore pianist Aytan Sternberg brought his original composition “Monday Morning Blues” (named on the way to this gig) said he’s most inspired by his fellow musicians. He said Fuwa “always kills every time! He’s got such a sweet tone.”

Of course, the big news in high school jazz is always the Essentially Ellington competition and festival in New York City.

Roosevelt High’s jazz band will join Garfield and Bothell High bands on the trip in May. Some of the musicians performing in this KNKX session have previously made that trip.

Asked about whether the Essentially Ellington trip feels like a competition, almost all the Roosevelt students said they’re just excited to be a part of the greater jazz community.

But Fuwa wasn’t having it.

He explained that his mom is coming from Japan to see the concert and he wants his band to excel before he graduates. “My friends are talking about just enjoying it… but no! I promised my mom we’re going to be top three, so we all have to work hard!”

Surely, Fuwa is already establishing his reputation as he prepares to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston next year.

KNKX was honored to welcome this all-star quintet from Roosevelt High School to our studios. Whether these musicians find a career in jazz or other styles, or simply play for fun, the education they get in school with Mowry and on the stage with each other makes them all better artists, and better people.


  • Aytan Sternberg - piano
  • Annie Faul - bass
  • Alexander Polyakovski - drums
  • Taiyo Fuwa - tenor saxophone
  • Henry Kelly - alto saxophone


  1. Monday Morning Blues (Aytan Sternberg)
  2. United (Wayne Shorter)
  3. Sushi (Oscar Peterson)
Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.
Related Stories