Above: Brandon Sun, who will be a senior at EGHS, at the piano. Submitted photo
By Roz Bassen-Alexander
Brandon Sun, a rising senior at EGHS, was the sole pianist in the Senior All-State Jazz Band earlier this year. Now, he will be performing at the famous Newport Jazz Festival in August alongside 10 other members of the All-State ensemble. Although the group was invited to perform at the festival, Brandon says an audition was still necessary since the group was smaller than the original band.
Brandon started playing the piano 11 years ago. He recently picked up the electric bass, and hopes to add the guitar to his repertoire too. While he started his musical journey with classical piano music, he began to explore jazz music in his freshman year of high school in the EGHS Jazz Ensemble. He has grown to love playing jazz music because “you can be as free as you want,” he said. “It really connects [me] to others in a way that can’t be done through any other form of music.”
He credited his piano instructor Dave McNally and EGHS music teacher Brendan Carniaux for leading him to this “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” saying they have both been very supportive. Carniaux said Brandon was “an extremely dedicated musician” whose growth throughout high school has been “exponential.” He also credits Brandon and a few other students for being one of the reasons he made a major shift in the jazz curriculum at the high school, delving deeper into the genre.
Brandon said he was looking forward to playing with the ensemble at such a world-renowned event. He describes the opportunity as “a huge deal” to him, especially since many famous jazz musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane have played at the same festival.
Tickets for the event are available for purchase at newportjazz.org for anyone who wishes to attend, though it would be wise to purchase sooner rather than later as they are likely to sell out fast. Brandon and the rest of the All-State Jazz ensemble will be playing all three days.
Roz Bassen-Alexander is a rising sophomore at East Greenwich High School.