Congratulations to our 2023
Future Generation Jazz Scholarship Recipients
These Rim High students are recognized for exemplary commitment to their music and the performance groups in which they participated. Your community wishes you great success in your careers!
Left to Right: Martina Urrutia (bass), David Anderson (drums), Dylan Witter (guitar), Chris Whitty, (piano), Ara Tokatlian (vocals).
Keep the Music Alive!
Major funding for BJJF music education is provided by the Bill & Dinah Ruch Family Foundation, The Mountain News, and Wheeler Steffen Sotheby’s International Realty. Additional funding is provided by Ernie H& Linda Hudson , and Lynn B Wilson & Associates.
Child prodigy Ara Tokatlian to perform during the Blue Jay Jazz Festival August 24-26.
Ara Tokatlian, who graduated from Rim High this past June, is the Blue Jay Jazz Foundation’s 2023 Gloria Loring Vocal Excellence Award recipient. He started learning to play the saxophone at the age of 9. It was his father, a multi-instrumentalist, who taught him. Then, four years ago while living in Argentina, Ara was introduced to the piano as a tool for learning about the nature of chords.
He started singing in 2020 to see how the melodies he was composing sounded. It wasn’t until he joined the high school choir in 2022 that Ara became confident enough to sing in public.
“Music means everything to me,” Ara said. “It provides me with a way to express abstract thoughts and emotions.” Through music, he turns his feelings into melodies and chords.
After taking a gap year, during which he plans to return to Argentina, Ara will be attending Riverside City College because of their renowned music program.
His ultimate goal is to become a recognized performing and recording artist. He also hopes to become an inspiration for future musicians just as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Arco Iris and Charly Garcia have been for him.
Rim High grad joins prestigious U.S. Marine Corps Band training program
David Anderson finds greater purpose in his music passion
David Anderson knew getting accepted to the elite U.S. Marine Corps Musician Enlistment Option Program (MEOP) was a long shot if not next to impossible. After all the Marine Corps Band is the oldest professional musical organization in the United States and one of the hardest music programs to get into in the world. Every year, thousands of hopeful students apply and a small handful gets in — as few as 4%.
What’s more, most of the applicants have at least a four year degree in music or possess extraordinary music skill.
In July the 2023 Rim of the World High School graduate beat the odds. He was among a handful of aspiring musicians shipped to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego for a chance of a lifetime.
“David has this amazing ability to pivot around obstacles,” said Kari Stebbing Rim High School Music Director. “This is an awesome opportunity for him to experience what his life is going to be like as a professional musician in the United States Marine Corps.”
“It’s kind of unbelievable and I couldn’t imagine being able to say this would happen a year or two ago. There’s been a lot of hard work, but everything seems to have built on itself,” said David, a 2023 Blue Jay Jazz Future Generation scholarship awardee, the son of Steven and Olga Anderson of Crestline.
“I’m just a kid from Crestline fresh out of high school,” said David. “It’s like a dream unfolding in front of my eyes.” That’s an understatement according to his father Steven.
“He’d been a dedicated member of his high school marching and jazz bands. He took part in numerous school competitions but rarely did he discuss his musical ambitions or ever practice at home. His interest in joining the Marines to play music came as a real head scratcher.”
David says all the hours on the field practicing with the school bands gave him an excellent preparation for the military and his music career. He grew up in a musical family. As a kid he took music classes with his two siblings, they excelled, he didn’t.
“When he revealed his plans to apply for the Marine Corps Band most of us were surprised, we didn’t take him seriously,” explained Steven.
“Once he made up his mind to be a Marine musician, there was no stopping him.” David’s first audition was unsuccessful. His recruiter recommended intense professional saxophone instruction.
There was a hitch. His aging saxophone was in disrepair. He had less than four months to show significant improvement before his application would be reconsidered. Then there was the problem of ready cash to pay for instrument repairs and private lessons.
Candidates must be very versatile to be able to play a wide range of music styles, such as orchestra, marching band, jazz group, ceremonial, rock band, etc. The auditions have three steps: prepared material, theoretical knowledge of music and finally, sight-reading, which counts for half of the final.
The $1,200 scholarship from Blue Jay Jazz Foundation made a huge difference, he said. The award was to be presented to David and fellow awardees August 24 after their live performance at the jazz festival.
“My family, band mates, and friends stepped up. I had to swallow my pride. Given the circumstances of my imminent enlistment in the Marine Corps and the need to develop my saxophone proficiency, I asked the Foundation to accelerate disbursement of the scholarship funds,” he said.
“The Foundation’s board of directors unanimously agreed to waive our policy and expedite the funds,” said Vice President, Hugh Bialecki. This allowed David to train with a Redlands based music professional.
Once a candidate is selected, he or she must sign a four-year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. However, their duty is exclusive to the Band. They cannot be transferred to any other unit. They must also undergo six months of extra schooling at the School of Music in Virginia Beach. In these six months, the musicians will have to complete the equivalent of an associate degree. It is not for the faint of heart.
Musicians who succeed in joining the band can make a comfortable living from their music, to travel the world, to play on stage in front of heads of state and large crowds, and to serve in an honored Corps that will give them lifelong friends, moral values and a great sense of accomplishment, according to the U.S. Marine Corps Band website.
Depending on their specialty and the available positions, musicians can be sent to eight different bases around the continental United States. This includes Hawaii and Japan. With over 700 performances around the world every year, including about 200 at the White House, the Marine Corps Band is really a musician’s dream come true.
“David’s favorite advice to aspiring musicians “The struggle you’re in today, is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up.”