Teen jazz quartet hitting all the high notes - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Teen jazz quartet hitting all the high notes

May 2nd, 2019 development
Teen jazz quartet hitting all the high notes

Managing Editor

A group of four teens who came together to play for 20 minutes at a Chandler Preparatory Academy awards assembly has become a jazz quartet, earning income at multiple gigs around the Valley.

The Take19 Jazz Quartet is composed of Chandler Preparatory Academy seniors Emily Drennan, 17, on bass guitar; Emily Gottry, 17, on clarinet; Robert Grahmann, 18, on drums and Eric Unterkofler, 18, on piano.

The four teens, who are also in the school’s jazz ensemble, initially decided they wanted to play music together at an assembly their sophomore year. They were already friends but once they performed at that gathering, they gelled as a jazz quartet.

The group got its name because the first song the members played together as a quartet was “Take 5” at the school assembly and the 19 ties in this year, 2019, when the students will graduate.

Emily Drennan, who lives in Gilbert, remembered that assembly fondly.

“I just remember I couldn’t stop smiling because it was just a lot of fun to play with people that I really cared about and play music we all genuinely cared about,” she said.

Emily Drennan has been playing bass guitar for five years and violin for seven years.

Now Take19 Jazz Quartet plays at any type of event and practices for two hours every weekend at Robert’s house. The group made its first CD, “Take One,” recorded at Grand Canyon University.

The group has performed at a woodworking store for a craft party, a 90th birthday party, corporate events, weddings and at SoZo Coffeehouse in Chandler.

While their peers might not be as familiar with jazz as other types of music, the high school seniors in the quartet love the genre. They play a broad range of styles including songs by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck and Christian Scott.

“We play all sorts of jazz,” Emily Drennan said. “Some types of jazz are more relatable or more accessible to kids our age. I definitely have come to love jazz a lot.”

She added she is also a classic rock fan who likes Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.

Emily Drennan said her favorite gig so far was when the quartet played at a woodworking store in Phoenix.

“It was a really, really cool venue,” she said.

Robert of Chandler said he most enjoyed playing at SoZo Coffeehouse in Chandler with the quartet.

“That concert in particular we were all playing at peak performance,” he said.

Robert said he enjoys playing in quartets more than as part of larger groups. He is also in Chandler Preparatory Academy’s orchestra, as well as the jazz ensemble.

“Quartets are more fun…simply because there are less people,” Robert said. “You have more input per person. I enjoy how much each member plays into the conglomerate of the quartet. Each person plays a very vital role.”

He said he loves the “instant gratification” that comes with playing drums. Robert plays a drum set in the quartet but plays snare drum, timpani, bass drum, cymbals and other percussion instruments in orchestra and also sings in two school choirs

“I also really enjoy the fact that I get to play a whole host of different instruments,” he said.

Emily Gottry, of Gilbert, whose father, Josh Gottry is jazz ensemble director at Chandler Preparatory Academy, said jazz is her favorite type of music.

“It’s a lot of creativity, especially playing with four,” she said. “I’m given a lot of creative freedom to interpret the basic melodies that were given.”

Emily Gottry has been playing clarinet since fourth grade and is also in the school’s orchestra and the recorder ensemble. She said her favorite performance with Take19 Jazz Quartet was playing at a 90th birthday party at a retirement home.

“That one was definitely a lot of fun,” Emily Gottry said. “Some of them danced.”

Eric of Tempe has been playing piano since kindergarten and enjoys playing jazz on keyboards/piano in the quartet.

He first learned to play classical music as a young child but then got introduced to jazz when he joined jazz ensemble at school.

“I’m really glad that I did,” Eric said. “I really like jazz and rock.”

He also sings in two choirs at school.

“It’s just so much freedom in playing jazz,” Eric said. “A lot of times with jazz, when we’re playing a piece we just have a melody and a few chords and everything else is entirely up to you. It’s fun to generate a song on the spot.”

He also enjoyed playing at the woodworking store as a stage was set up for them.

“It was really cool to play for a little crowd,” Eric said. “It was inside a big warehouse.”

Possibly one of their biggest fans, Josh Gottry, Emily’s father, said the teens are self-directed at rehearsals and gigs, and it was their idea to form the group in the first place.

He also is an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University and Chandler-Gilbert Community College, where he teaches music theory and humanities and percussion respectively. He gives private percussion lessons, too.

“This is 100 percent their idea,” Josh said. “As soon as they were determined to do it I wanted to facilitate it, provide what I could. It was their brainchild. It was their idea to play at the assembly.

“The fact they wanted to play together just the four of them I knew would be a very high caliber,” Josh added. “They are highly motivated. There is not a single adult that makes these rehearsals happen. This is all on them.”

He said he did introduce them to people he knew at Grand Canyon University, where he used to work as an adjunct faculty member, when the teens said they wanted to record a CD.

John McJunkin is a recording engineer and was the point person for the recording session and Eric Johnson is the recording studio manager.

Josh said he listened to the students in Take19 rehearse songs before their recording of them to give them feedback and came with them to the recording session. The teens recorded 11 songs in about six hours while the average pop song on the radio “reflects about 20 hours worth of studio time per song,” he said.

“That just shows the level of preparation they put into that project,” Josh said. “They were very prepared. They’re great musicians. All four of them are excellent players on their instrument. They just have some really impressive initiative for high school students. It’s that combination that makes this a really unique quartet.”

He said Robert has been a private student of his since he was in about third or fourth grade.

“They’re all students that I feel kind of a closeness to,” Josh said. “There’s a beaming element of pride that is part of that.”

He said some of his colleagues have listened to the CD and are impressed with their performance and the quality of engineering.

The four Chandler Preparatory Academy musicians enjoyed recording a CD.

“That was a ton of fun,” Emily Gottry said. “It required a lot of preparation. The engineers were great to work with.”

She said she will probably major in math in college but she wants to keep playing music after high school.

Emily Drennan said she does not plan to study music in college, either, but she is open to other musical opportunities in the future.

“I never expected to be in a quartet,” she said. “I never expected to have a CD.”

Emily Drennan said recording the CD was “a lot of fun” and “such a great experience.”

Eric said he might consider a minor in music and he wants to continue performing piano. He plans to go to Arizona State University in the fall.

Emily Drennan and Emily Gottry are deciding between different universities that they will attend next school year.

Robert plans to be a music performance major at ASU in the fall.

Josh is happy the four teens plan to keep playing music in the future, whether for fun or professionally. He said the world needs more people playing music because they love it and “not because they need to make a paycheck.”

Josh has played in different groups including Symphony of the Southwest in Mesa, West Valley Symphony and Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. He regularly accompanies Chandler Children’s Choir and other local choirs.

Take19 Jazz Quartet’s “Take One” CD is available to buy on amazon.com, iTunes and streaming on many services. The jazz quartet charges $150 for the first hour and $100 for each additional hour for its performances. To book Take19 Jazz Quartet, contact the group at take19quartet@gmail.com.

Chandler Preparatory Academy is a charter school that is part of the Great Hearts network of public charter schools. It provides a comprehensive liberal arts education and is a college preparatory school with a rigorous, dynamic curriculum founded upon Western civilization’s greatest works. Information: chandlerprep.greatheartsacademies.org