KETCHIKAN — Four dedicated young Ketchikan musicians have been selected to receive the 2013 Sam Pitcher Memorial music scholarships.
The music scholarship fund was started following Sam’s death in 2003 at age 16, from myocarditis. He was a passionate musician who was a member of several local bands, was a co-founder of The Rubber Band rock group and attended Sitka Fine Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.
The $500 scholarships were awarded first in 2004, and between two and seven students have been chosen to receive the scholarships every year since.
Sam Pitcher’s mother, Karen Pitcher, said 43 scholarships totaling more than $20,000 have been awarded in the 10 years since the program’s inception.
“It’s just been really rewarding,” Pitcher said. “It keeps Sam’s memory alive, but it’s also a positive feeling to know that the scholarship fund is meaningful and helpful.”
She said she really enjoys meeting the recipients every year, and has fun delivering the good news.
About eight members on the scholarship advisory committee, which operates under the umbrella of the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council, selects the winners. It is a merit-based scholarship, Pitcher said.
Ketchikan High School students, junior Jillianne Fazakerley, freshman Kayleigh Krosse, sophomore Hana Lee Oshima, and freshman Lora Starr, each will receive the award this year to use in music education programs. All but Fazakerley plan to use the money to help with the tuition to attend Sitka Fine Arts Camp this summer. Fazakerley plans to attend the Interlochen summer jazz camp.
Fazakerley plays piano, trumpet, trombone and French horn. She previously has attended Sitka Fine Arts Camp, and this year wants to focus on jazz in the Interlochen three-week trumpet program.
She said she always has loved playing jazz in local bands. She said she enjoys the flexibility of jazz music — the way she can change the feel of a number, and put a piece of herself into the music with improvisation.
She said she started playing trumpet in sixth grade with the McPherson Music Windjammers band. She saw her first Sam Pitcher Memorial Concert — the vehicle by which the foundation raises scholarship money — around that time and saw her friends playing. She was motivated to practice and audition from that experience.
She said the McPhersons have been central to her love of playing, and to her progress.
“Tina McPherson has always been there if I need anything,” she said.
Karen Pitcher said the McPhersons are central to the strength of the scholarship fund, because they not only were critical to her son Sam’s love of music, but to many other students’ as well. They also plan and hold the annual December concert.
Fazakerley also said she has had strong family support, and that her grandparents “never missed a concert” she performed in. Her mother, Beth Fazakerley, plays clarinet and teaches lessons. Her grandfather, Jim Alguire, plays in the McPherson jazz and concert band, and her grandmother Gail Alguire plays saxophone.
At Christmas, her grandparents gave her a gift certificate for the Interlochen program.
When she was only 2 years old, she said in one of many such instances, she ran to the dance floor at a wedding reception and began to dance with the bride, perfectly in rhythm.
“Everybody knew that I was going to be a musician,” she said.
Her mother began to teach her music when she was 2 years old, and homeschooled her until her freshman year in high school, when Jilliane transferred to?Kayhi, mostly for its music program.
Her strength as a musician is playing the trumpet, especially slow, melodic ballads, and recently she played a solo feature piece in one band performance called “If I Could.”
“It was nerve-wracking, but a lot of fun,” she said.
She continues to work on her range, she said, and her timing.
She hopes to earn a college degree in ministry and a minor in music at college, possibly from the Christian Hillsong Leadership College in Australia, after first completing her basic education classes in Alaska.
Krosse plays piano and violin.
She received a scholarship in 2011 to attend the Cornish University Summer Orchestra in Seattle. She also played first violin in the orchestra for Ketchikan’s fall musical.
She plans to attend Sitka Fine Arts Camp with the Sam Pitcher scholarship money, and said she also had attended the camp in 2010.
“I’m really excited to be in orchestra class,” she said, adding that she doesn’t very often get to play with musicians her age.
She said she doesn’t play piano or violin in the Kayhi groups, as she hasn’t found opportunity yet, but she does play with the McPherson bands. She said she wishes there were more venues to play violin with others as well.
“It would be really cool to have a strings program in Ketchikan,” she said.
She also has begun teaching piano lessons, and plans to start teaching violin as well. She said she hopes to learn to play cello someday.
She said she would not have been able to attend the camp without the scholarship.
“I’m super, super happy that I was able to get it,” she said.
Oshima has studied classical piano, trumpet and trombone in both Japan and Ketchikan. She was raised in Japan, and this is her first year attending school in Ketchikan. Her mother, Chandra Oshima, is a 1984 Kayhi graduate. Hana Lee is living with her grandparents, Steve and Grace Kinney.
Oshima said she is enjoying learning to play jazz music for the first time.
She, as well as Fazakerley and Starr, had just returned from the Sitka Jazz Festival this past weekend, and said she was deeply affected by hearing and learning about jazz.
“It was mind-blowing,” she said. “I love jazz now.”
She has been playing saxophone and the keyboard in wind ensemble and the McPherson Windjammers band as well.
She has enjoyed the way she has been able to have fun exploring music in a more relaxed way, and feels she has benefited from learning in both systems.
Because she has extended family in Ketchikan, she has spent time here every summer since she was young, she said, so the culture hasn’t been terribly difficult to adjust to.
Starr, who also plans to attend the Sitka camp, said she started playing trumpet in fifth grade, and is learning piano and trombone.
“It just makes me so happy to play, it’s just this amazing feeling,” she said.
When other girls were choosing to play flutes and clarinets, she said she was drawn to the trumpet mostly because of its “big noise.” She described herself as usually a fairly quiet person.
“Maybe I was looking to express myself through it ... maybe looking for a way to be loud,” she said.
She enjoyed meeting the professional jazz musicians while at the Sitka Jazz Festival.
“It was cool to be able to see these famous musicians,” she said.
She “definitely” wants to continue her music studies in college, and continue improving on the piano and trombone, and also to learn “as many instruments as possible,” including woodwinds eventually.
She said the best moment as a musician is “the moment that it really clicks.”
Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com