This is the twenty-first installment of a new chapter in our Student Features series on the blog that we will be posting leading up to the 2017 Music for All National Festival, presented by Yamaha. Music for All will be featuring three honor ensembles (Honor Band of America, Honor Orchestra of America, and the Jazz Band of America) at the Music for All National Festival, March 9th through March 11th. We look forward to getting to know all of these wonderful students who have been accepted into these prestigious ensembles!


Name: Sam Butler

Hometown: Fairhope, AL

School Name: Fairhope High School

Instrument: Trumpet

Which Ensemble Are You In?
Jazz Band of America

What made you decide to apply to be a part of the ensemble?
A couple of years ago, I had somehow stumbled across the clip of the Jazz Band of America from 2014 playing “Breakfast at Denny’s.” I was so impressed by the quality of the musicians, that it never crossed my mind that I could make it some day. Earlier this past fall, I somehow discovered the video again after not thinking about it for a while and was inspired to audition. It worked out, thankfully!

What are three things you’ve learned from being involved in band or orchestra?
I’ve learned that trust is key, not only trusting other people, but being trustworthy yourself. I’ve learned that music doesn’t judge, and people from all backgrounds have an equal chance of making a statement. I’ve also learned that music can be so many things to many different people. It can be happy, sad, reflective, progressive, and it always changes based on the person listening.

Most memorable moment in band or orchestra?
My first marching band rehearsal my freshman year was my most memorable moment from band, ever. Our first movement contained “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables” and that was when I first saw how emotion could be conveyed through music. Just the loudness of the music and the big chords that gave me so many goosebumps was an amazing experience. I had never heard sounds like those before.

Besides band/orchestra, what are you involved in at school?
For many years, I was on the high school golf team, and we were a very successful program. I made many friends that I will always be close to, and it was a wonderful experience.

What book have you read that you would recommend?
I would definitely recommend “Moving to Higher Ground” by Wynton Marsalis. It’s a wonderful piece that really taught me about jazz music and what influences it, and also the influence that it has on other forms of culture, in art, other genres of music, and dance.

What’s your favorite song or piece of music?
My favorite piece of music is entitled “In a Day.” It was written by the bassist in my high school band. It is kind of an avant-garde jazz piece, but it is very beautiful. I have never enjoyed performing a piece more than I have that song.

Favorite ice cream flavor?

What’s your favorite non-music related hobby or past time?
My favorite hobby is playing golf. I used to play competitively, and I have won 18 junior tournaments. I always get out whenever I can and it is a good way to relax on the weekends with my friends and family.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give a friend who needs some inspiration or motivation?
I would say never live a life where you aren’t doing what you want to do.

What’s your current plan for what you want to do after graduating high school?
I want to major in either Jazz Studies or Music Education in college.

Have you participated in MFA/BOA events before? Which ones?
This is my first time participating in an MFA/BOA event.

Tell us something interesting/unique about you:
I have a vision condition called Stargardt’s Disease that affects the retina in both of my eyes. It causes a loss in central vision,A so I rely heavily on my peripheral vision. However, I don’t let that be a setback. I always try to stay positive and be an inspiration for others. I get my music enlarged to 11×17 paper and I sit at the front of my classes, so thankfully I get to be a normal teenager. I hope that people who are dealing with the same problems as I am can be motivated to not let anything stop them!