Brothers find common ground in MHCC Jazz Band
Different goals, same love of music
Chris Meyer and JJ Meyer may end up going different directions in their lives but what they both have in common, besides being brothers, is their love for jazz.
The brothers are part of the MHCC Jazz Band, directed by Susie Jones, and soon will be heading to perform in Taiwan Feb. 17-23. It will be Chris’s first time performing in Taiwan and the second time for JJ.
JJ has been playing trombone in the Jazz Band for a year, while his younger brother Chris joined the band this school year, playing tenor saxophone. JJ said Chris worked hard to get in the band but is not pursuing music as a career.
Chris said, “I was actually planning on doing it (joining the Jazz Band). I did band all the way through high school. Music is his kind of thing while I kind of do it for fun. He’s the one who wants to pursue it.”
The Meyer brothers were both born in Portland. JJ, who’s major is music, is 20 and Chris, majoring in general studies, is 18. They started getting into music and playing musical instruments at a young age, playing in their school bands in both elementary and high school.
JJ said, “I started in fifth grade, all the way through high school. I liked music and I just wanted to be in band. I didn’t start getting serious about it until probably late freshman/early sophomore year. That was when I started building a deep passion for it. I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life and ever since then I knew that’s what I want to do.”
Asked if playing music at a young age was difficult, JJ said, “When you start in 5th grade, you don’t have that many concerts; you just kind of get warmed up and by the time you’re in middle school and high school, you start having more concerts.
“It’s nerve racking at first but it’s one of those things where the more you do it, the less nervous you are. I’d rather play in front of people than try public speaking,” said JJ.
“Unlike him (Chris), I’m a music major and I want to be a school band director,” said JJ.
Chris said, “We both went through the same thing really. I started in fifth grade, we both played (in the) lead-top band in our high school; and our high school had a really good jazz program,” said Chris.
Jennifer Muller, the band director at David Douglas High School, inspired the Meyer brothers to take music to the next level. The band director especially struck a chord with JJ.
“The band director was just amazing. That’s what probably inspired us both,” said JJ. “She’s the real reason I want to do it (be a band director). She’s able to push you so hard but still make it always be fun. It was great, it was a blast,” said JJ.
As for other musical inspirations, Chris cites bandleaders John Coltrane Buddy Rich, and Gordon Goodwin. Other than that, Chris is into the overall big band sound. For the most part, he doesn’t idolize any one particular musician.
JJ, on the other hand, is more inspired by individual musicians, including trombone players such as local musician and teacher Jeff Uusitalo and famous trombonist J.J. Johnson.
“People say I have a good trombone name,” says JJ. “He (J.J. Johnson) really revolutionized how to play jazz trombone. He was like Charlie Parker but on trombone.”
Both JJ and Chris agree that playing live in front of a crowd is much more exciting than recording music.
“I like playing live more. It’s more energy, adrenalin. In recording you play a little piece, pick it apart, play a little piece, pick it apart,” said JJ. Chris added, “Recording is more just a rehearsal really. I’ve never done it before but that’s kind of the environment.”
JJ said, “It’s a much more rehearsal environment and it’s a recording, so you don’t have the audience to feed off of. It’s a lot more fun (playing) live.”
Asked how many instruments he’s played in his life, Chris said, “I started on clarinet in the fifth grade because my mom had a clarinet and it was a nice one — and I liked it. And then for jazz, I played alto saxophone because I wanted to play in the MHCC Jazz Band. This year is my first year playing tenor (saxophone),” said Chris.
In contrast, JJ has committed to playing the trombone for about 10 years and when asked if he would ever change instruments, he said, “I don’t think so. I’m pretty stuck on it. I like it a lot, it’s cool. I think it’s my one and only.”
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