Home-Grown Talent Chosen for GRAMMY Band

by Callie Schweitzer

(February 9, 2005) Ross Mintzer, a Mamaroneck native and senior at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, was recently chosen by the GRAMMY RMintzerFoundation as one of twenty-nine high school students to be a part of the Gibson/Baldwin Jazz Ensembles, which perform prior to the GRAMMY Music Awards and elsewhere in California in the week leading up to the awards. Mr. Mintzer, who plays the tenor saxophone, left Mamaroneck High School last year to pursue an intensive study of music at Interlochen.

The saxophonist heard about the Gibson/Baldwin jazz groups from Mamaroneck High School band teacher and longtime friend Tim Hooker. For the audition, he had to videotape himself playing specific songs. “I wasn’t nervous at all, I just played,” he stated. “I was extremely surprised to find out I was the only one from Interlochen who had made it.”

Mr. Mintzer who started playing the saxophone in 3rd grade at Murray Avenue School, still finds time to practice for three and a half to five hours a day amidst stressful daily high school life at Interlochen.  “Leaving MHS was a hard thing,” he commented. “Mr. Hooker does an amazing job with the jazz program. It was hard to say good-bye to my family and friends. Larchmont is a great place. I always enjoy coming back to the school and sitting in with the jazz ensemble rehearsals.”

Mr. Mintzer, who left for Los Angeles last Thursday to begin rehearsals with the GRAMMY band, coincidentally was also performing in L.A. with his jazz combo from Interlochen. After a very short rehearsal period, he is now making the rounds with the GRAMMY band performing all over California at clubs and theaters including the Fonda Theater in Hollywood, the Knitting Factory, the Vic in Santa Monica, and a yacht on Rainbow Harbor, Long Beach. “In L.A., I get a chance to perform with some jazz masters, such as saxophonist Benny Golson, and singer John Hendricks,” said Mr. Mintzer. “I’m very excited to meet them.” On Sunday, February 13, the GRAMMY band has their big performances before and after the telecast ceremony at the L.A. Convention Center. An added excitement for the band is that all members of the band are invited to the ceremony.

Ross isn’t the first Mintzer to be associated with the GRAMMY’s. His uncle, Bob Mintzer, is a GRAMMY-winning jazz saxophone player who has recorded with the Yellow Jackets and has his own big band. “My uncle is a big influence on me,” said Ross Mintzer. “I always listen to his music and see him play whenever I can.”

Tim Hooker recalled, “When Ross was in the eighth grade I told his uncle Bob he should hear him play. A ‘natural’ is what I said—great feel, mature sound, and one who has the touch.” Mr. Hooker also recalled another MHS jazz musician with a great feel. Five years ago, guitarist Todd Neufeld became the first student from Mamaroneck High School to qualify for the Gibson/Baldwin Jazz ensemble. “He was the same type of player as Ross, great ears, great choice of notes to play, and great touch,” said Mr. Hooker.

As for the future, Mr. Mintzer hopes to attend the Manhattan School of Music, where the director of music is also the director of the Gibson/Baldwin Jazz Ensemble. “Playing music is something I would like to do my whole life,” he concluded.

Callie Schweitzer is a sophomore at MHS and a regular contributor to the Gazette.

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