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Rojas+plays+saxophone+at+the+2016+Bucktown+Music+and+Arts+fest+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Michael+Rojas%29
Rojas plays saxophone at the 2016 Bucktown Music and Arts fest (Photo courtesy of Michael Rojas)

Rojas plays saxophone at the 2016 Bucktown Music and Arts fest (Photo courtesy of Michael Rojas)

Rojas plays saxophone at the 2016 Bucktown Music and Arts fest (Photo courtesy of Michael Rojas)

By Evan Patrick, Reporter

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As he stepped out onto the stage last summer at the Bucktown Arts and Music Festival with his saxophone, Michael Rojas played harmonious jazz songs such as Blue Monk by Thelonious Monk and Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder.

“I was only able to play there once, but it was a lot of fun,” Rojas said. “It’s always great stepping in front of people and playing at anytime.”

Rojas’ passion for the saxophone began in the fourth grade.

There was “something appealing about it,” Rojas, Div. 775, said. “I feel like people just like saxophone, the way it sounds, it just sounds so different, but so amazing.”   

Rojas put down his saxophone in eighth grade, feeling he never learned how to play music properly.

He felt he had never seen how powerful music was, and how fun it was to play with others. He picked the saxophone back up his junior year at Lane, after taking a guitar class.

“I came here to Lane Tech and I signed up for a guitar class,” Rojas said. “I figured out how big of a form of expression [music] was for me, that motivated me to pick up the saxophone again.”

Mr. Flygt, his jazz band teacher, and Mr. O’Brien, his symphonic band teacher, were crucial to this return.

“[Flygt and O’Brien] welcomed me with open arms and gave me all the resources I needed to really get better,” Rojas said.

O’Brien praised Michael for how fast he learned, how fast he adapted, and his willingness to take on any role.

“He’ll excel at anything you ask him to do,” O’Brien said. “You wish all your students were that reliable.”

Flygt shared similar praise for Rojas’ abilities.

“Rojas is an exemplary student,” Flygt said “He is exciting to be around, for myself he has been reliable, he’s been motivating. He has been everything you would want.”

Although Rojas has only been playing saxophone for two years at Lane, he has made the most out of it by joining the symphonic band, jazz band, and marching band at Lane.

“He has gone a long way in only two years,” Flygt said. “I wish he would have been on the scene a little bit earlier.”   

According to O’Brien and Flygt, Rojas is forming his own style while developing a love for jazz. Rojas’ favorite performance piece, “At Last” by Etta James, reflects that claim.

“It’s a song that everybody knows, some people would say it’s a little played out, but I feel like everytime you listen to it, it doesn’t matter how many times you play it, you always feel it,” Rojas said.

Rojas’ favorite musicians also support that claim. He listens to a range of saxophone players, from modern artists such as Kamasi Washington and Braxton Cook, to more traditional players, such as Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and Ben Webster.

Rojas’ favorite event to perform at is the pep rally. “There’s thousands of people in the school, you’re in the middle of the field surrounded by thousands of people, performing, and that’s something that’s amazing,” Rojas said.

In addition to playing at the pep rally, Rojas also enjoys playing at gigs with Jazz Combo. “Those gigs, I’ll always remember those experiences, like gigging with your friends and learning how to operate within a band,” Rojas said.

Rojas draws inspiration from what he feels music really is: a universal language.

“It’s something that connects all of us no matter where you come from,” Rojas said. “I can play with anyone from anywhere and we can always connect through music.”

Rojas appreciates all of of the things he has learned through playing the saxophone.  

“[There] are lessons out of just music in general, how to communicate with people and how to create something with others,” Rojas said.    

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