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Another 48 hours with a Grammy nominee

By: Craig Covello
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What a great weekend! For about 48 hours, I was privileged to hang out with a really cool cat. A musical genius who made a stop off in Folsom with his band on their way to the Grammys. I’m talking about Steve Wiest and his world-famous One O’clock Lab Band from the University of North Texas. Steve and his band kicked off their West Coast tour by graciously agreeing to be the featured guest artists at the annual Folsom Jazz Festival. Needless to say, Folsom High School music director Curtis Gaesser and Music Boosters President Lorie Walton were very excited. The itinerary included a Friday evening concert at the beautiful Rolling Hills Christian Church in El Dorado Hills, followed by Saturday afternoon music clinics at Folsom High as well as a second performance on Saturday night. Those in the audience who had never heard the One O'clock Lab band before were totally blown away. Seriously, these guys were amazing. That's also the reason they were on their way to the Grammys. The 2009 One O'clock Lab Band was nominated for Steve's recent composition called "Ice Nine", which was inspired by the 1963 SciFi doomsday novel "Cat's Cradle" written by Kurt Vonnegut. The music is intense, forceful and full of dynamic contrasts that could only be mastered by a band as good as the One O'clock. What is just as impressive is a little known fact that Steve shared with me. He wrote Ice Nine while RIDING IN A CAR WHILE ON A FAMILY VACATION! By the way, this is Steve's second Grammy nomination. It's simply not fair that someone so close to my age has a monopoly on that much talent. So why was I fortunate enough to hang out with Steve? That's simple. Someone with very questionable judgment decided to put me in charge of making sure that our friends from Texas felt welcome. It was the easiest job in the world, since Steve brought a very capable road manager, Craig Marshall, who took care of the logistics. Really, how hard is it to hang out with someone like Steve Wiest and drive him around in a golf cart to the different high school music venues? Along the way, he spoke fondly about his days playing with jazz legend Maynard Ferguson. On a richter scale from 1 to 10, it appears that Maynard was a 15. The energy he generated on stage mirrored his personality offstage as well. Totally electric. Steve also shared stories regarding his time with Doc Severinsen, who apparently never stopped practicing. Doc would walk around blowing a trumpet mouthpiece when not actually playing his horn on stage. Severinsen defines the word "dedication", which explains why he was also the bandleader of the Tonight Show for decades. In musician's terms, he's described as "a monster". Don't worry, that's a good thing. So when someone with Steve's talent, background and worldwide jazz connections gives his opinion of the Folsom High School Jazz Band, it's worthwhile to listen. What did he say? He said the same thing I said last year when I was the Folsom Music Boosters President. He said that we have an amazing music program here in our little corner of the world that should never be taken for granted. In fact, Steve went on to say that the Folsom High School Jazz Band was better than 35 of the 40 all-star college bands he has mentored in his clinics over the last few years. That's the upper 15%, and our kids are still in high school. Steve has also taken notice of Folsom High School musicians since they won the UNT Jazz Festival last year in Addison Texas. In fact, three of the 2009 Folsom High School alumni are now attending the University of North Texas Jazz studies program in Denton: Cameron Covello, Sean Weiss and Allexa Lopez. I couldn't be more proud, especially since one of them is my son. So if you have a student enrolled in the Folsom High music program, whether they're in marching band, jazz band or jazz choir, you should be proud as well. Take every opportunity to tell your neighbors, the school board and the city council how fortunate we are to have a world-class music program right here in Folsom. And don't ever let them take it for granted.