- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - When Sam Keedy decided to play music in the sixth grade, he had his choice of instruments. At least, he believes he did.

“There was kind of a nudge toward trombone,” Sam said.

Maybe a little.

Sam, now a freshman at Union Colony Preparatory School, had two uncles who play, and a cousin.

His own mother, Angela, principal of Union Colony’s elementary school and a longtime music teacher, plays as well. They all play in a trombone choir together at family reunions.

If all that wasn’t enough, Angela’s boyfriend, Paul McKee of Boulder, is considered by many to be one of the best jazz trombone players in the world.

The thing is, Angela didn’t need to push him once he discovered the instrument, either as a mother or a teacher, and all the work both have put to into his playing paid off.

He was recently named to the All-State Small Schools Jazz Band. The honor is a rare one for any student: Union Colony teachers believe he may be the first in Greeley to achieve it, though they don’t know for sure.

He’s also playing lead. That doesn’t necessarily make him the best player in the section, as jazz ensembles do things a bit differently, but it’s also easy to assume he didn’t just squeak in. And he’s only 15. He played with the group at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs a couple of weeks ago.

Sam’s got plenty of talent, and the bloodline as well. His father, Nathan, plays saxophone. When he was 6, he would stand behind his sister, Julia, and listen to her practice the piano. Occasionally, she would play a line of music, and then he would play it back after hearing it once.

But it irritates his band director, Rob Borger, when people suggest Sam is just some kind of phenom.

“His musical knowledge is of a graduate level student at college,” said Borger, who should know, given he was that at the University of Northern Colorado’s distinguished jazz program several years ago. “He’s really dedicated, and he understands what it takes, and then he does it.”

It’s the doing it that makes the difference, Angela said. When students ask, she tells them to practice for 20 minutes twice a day. Sam’s the only student in her 20 years of teaching who did that, as far as she knows, and he does it three or four times a day. One time, he couldn’t sleep, so he got up at 4 a.m. and started playing, until Julia, who sings, stormed downstairs and screamed at him to stop. After that, Angela had to set rules in the house: No playing the trombone after 9 p.m.

“He’s found his passion early in life,” Angela said.

There are many examples of his love for it. A few years ago, he dressed up as Glenn Miller, the famous bandleader and ‘bone player, for Halloween. He trick-or-treated at an assisted living center, and the seniors loved his costume.

The trombone also has been a good way to bond with McKee. He gave Sam a JJ Johnson CD for Christmas one year. He gives Sam regular lessons when he comes up to visit Angela.

“He really pushed me toward jazz,” Sam said. “Now I’m a jazz hog.”

Sam does like some pop music, the “talented artists” such as Adele or Sam Smith, but he remembers loving the Pixar movie, “The Incredibles,” when he was a little kid for the spy-like horn soundtrack as much as the superhero plot.

He’s only a freshman, but he thought he would have a rare shot at the all-state jazz band because he played with others in jazz camps who made the honor in the past, and he could hang with them.

Now he hangs with students and faculty from the University of Northern Colorado’s renowned jazz program, and that’s helped him as well as McKee’s instruction.

“I think the greatest thing we’ve created is a group of people who connect and support what they all love,” Angela said. “They’ve never treated him like a kid.”

Now he doesn’t play like one either.

___

Information from: The Tribune of Greeley, Co, https://greeleytribune.com


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