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By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff
The Needham High and Needham Middle School jazz ensembles took the stage in the high school auditorium last Friday for the annual Jazz Night concert. The young musicians were joined by Massachusetts native and professional saxophonist Tucker Antell, who shared the stage and helped the students shine.
Antell, who also gives private lessons to students, including several from Needham High, spent a few days in rehearsals with the students in the week leading up to the concert. He visited Pollard Middle School to give clinics to the jazz musicians there and to offer advice from his years of playing both as a student and as a professional.
“It’s great because it brings back memories of being in this type of environment and it’s kind of scary because I don’t remember being as good as these kids blowing solos,” said Antell the day before the concert.
“There’s a whole lot of great talent in here and it’s great to see they have a teacher (Aaron Bush) that is making it happen for them and giving them a lot of great ground to grow into.”
Antell admitted that he did not have the same experience as a student. His music teacher was not interested in jazz, so it was a passion (and eventually a career) that he developed on his own. In fact, Antell recalled that he started playing sax because it was the first instrument that he pointed to when he and his mother walked into the music store.
He praised the Needham students for being dedicated and passionate about music at a young age. Antell said, “I don’t see anyone rolling their eyes or slouching in their chair, which you know middle school bands I would expect to see a couple, but everyone seems super excited.”
Eighth grader Danny Richmond explained, “It’s such a cool experience because they know so much and can teach you so much that it’s awesome to just be able to hang out and play with them.”
“Seeing what he can do with that [sax]...it makes you think what you can do on this and it kind of gives you that drive to do what he does,” said fellow eighth grader Itai Abraham.
Eighth grader Lily Alberding noted that Antell had shown the students a couple different basic techniques, but also worked with them on soloing and how to improve that difficult skill.
She said, “He’s also taught us motific development and growing our solos and having a point that’s like the highest intensity and going down from there.”
“It was exciting to hear him because he’s insane at saxophone.”
Antell was grateful to hear that he had provided inspiration to the students. As he remarked, “If you see someone doing something at a high level then it can make you more excited or more passionate about it. That’s sort of the idea - to make it inspiring.”
Eighth grader Jonah Berg was impressed by the way that Antell could perform with the students and, despite being at such a high level, not overpower the younger musicians.
Berg added, “He makes you so much better than you think you are. He gives you ideas to work off of and makes you the star, but he’s still just incredible.”
“Playing with people that are our own skill level is really cool too because we can grow together but he speeds up the process and he makes you realize what you can do.”
That idea was put into effect on the Needham High stage where the students’ skills were the showcase with Antell providing support and glimpses of his talent.
“None of the parents are coming to see me,” he said with a laugh. “The fact that I can be there and one of those sax players or one of those trumpet players sees me and gets it in their ear and in their mind as they stand up and uses that energy to play…I kind of think that’s the whole point of this.”
See more photos from Jazz Night at
Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.