And All That Jazz

Jazz ace Erik Bloomquist is a master at numerous instruments including the saxophone, but he has taken on a new challenge: arranging vocals for the senior song.

Jess Daninhirsch, Photography Editor

When did you first get interested in music? How?

I’d say my interest in music really took off in sixth grade when I played in the jazz band at Carson Middle School. It was so exciting to play in a style where I could express myself through improvisation and have fun making music with my friends.

How long have you been involved in music at school, and what is your involvement at school?

A long time. My first memory with music in school is playing in orchestra in 3rd grade. I switched to band the next year and have stuck with it ever since. Today, I play saxophone in wind ensemble and Jazz Ensemble 1, I’m a Drum Major in the marching band, I’ve sang and danced in the cast of Mamma Mia and The Drowsy Chaperone, and I play different instruments in some groups outside of school.

What was the first instrument you picked up, and how long have you been playing it?

The first instrument I picked up for real was guitar. I only took lessons for about a year in 4th grade, but I still pick it up and play at home all the time. So I’d say I’ve been playing guitar on and off for around eight years.

What’s your favorite instrument you play, and what makes it your favorite?

This is a close one. I’d probably give the edge to saxophone simply because of the amount of practice and study I’ve invested into it. I feel like I’ve played enough saxophone to get comfortable with my own sound and style, so expression is much less difficult than on other instruments. Whenever I think about playing music, my saxophone is the first instrument that comes to mind.

What’s your favorite song or type of music to play on the saxophone?

Jazz — big band literature in particular — is my favorite genre to play. It has so much energy and such mesmerizing harmony that I often get goosebumps at rehearsal. Concerts are high-energy and fun; there really is no better feeling than standing up to wail out a solo at jazz concerts.

What goes through your mind as you’re improvising during a concert or show?

I guess it depends on the chart we’re playing. My goal is always to get comfortable enough with the song that I can completely clear my mind and play from the heart alone. If I’m working on my improvisation or reading a new song, I have to read the chord changes and really focus on playing the “right” notes, but by the time I’m ready to perform, my mind can hopefully be blank while I’m soloing.

Who or what are your biggest influences or inspirations in music?

I absolutely love R&B and hip-hop; I really listen to way more of this style than jazz and instrumental music. Drake, The Weeknd, and Bruno Mars are probably my biggest influences as far as musical taste. I listen to the legends of jazz — Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis — when I’m searching for inspiration and ideas on my saxophone, but it’s a relatively small part of my musical diet.

You’re currently arranging the senior song–can you tell us about what that process looks like, and can you give us any hints as to what we can expect?

This is actually my first time writing for vocalists, so I’ve spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with how to create that strong, pop sound that we need. I sit down at my computer and try to finish at least one section of the song each time I work on it, so I often write for at least two to three hours at a time; I worked on it for seven straight hours the first night, just mapping out what songs I wanted, what keys to put them in, and how to structure the piece. I’ve been given a lot of creative freedom with this project, so I definitely want to present something that I’m proud of. Right now, it’s a mash-up of five nostalgic songs that I feel reflect our class’s time moving through North Allegheny.

What are your future plans, and do you plan on continuing music in some way?

I’m going to study electrical engineering in college, but I will ensure music will not leave my life. I’m planning on joining a university jazz ensemble or forming my own group to keep performing after high school.

NA Music Dept