Ketchikan High School junior Annie Paxton was one of 17 Kayhi student musicians who made the trip to the University of Idaho College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences' annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival late last month.
Paxton is a member of both the Kayhi jazz choir and the jazz band, in which she plays the trumpet. Both those groups took home runner-up titles in their respective categories during the adjudicated portion of the festival.
It was the first time that the Kayhi junior had traveled out of state for a music-related educational experience during her school career, she told the Daily News during a Thursday afternoon phone interview.
Although the Kayhi groups were on the University of Idaho campus in-person for the festival, they submitted their performances for adjudication virtually.
"But I was still kind of nervous going down to be adjudicated and going to a college and being around, you know, groups that are more professional and more advanced," Paxton said.
During the four days that the students were in Idaho, they attended clinics and concerts with guest musicians on the university grounds. Paxton's personal favorites were with Dee Dee Bridgewater — a Grammy and Tony award recipient who Paxton said spoke very "powerfully" — and Sebastian Fabian, a musician who has worked with Paxton in the past during First City Players' "Jazz and Cabaret" programs.
"It was just kind of fun seeing him (Fabian) at a different place in a different state, but knowing that you've already met him before, it was just really cool," Paxton said.
Kayhi students also visited a nearby mall and explored the University of Idaho's campus and student union building during their time at the festival.
"We had a lot of fun and it was just really exciting because usually our school trips aren't out of state," she said. "So I think it just felt like a huge privilege to be taken out of state and to be in a competition. That was just the most awesome part, I think."
While there were groups from British Columbia, California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon also experiencing the festival, there wasn't much mingling between schools.
"I think part of that was not being able to perform (in-person), because most groups were only there for the night that they got adjudicated, but we were there for four days, so we didn't really get to meet anyone, which was kind of upsetting, but we still got to meet some cool guests artists," Paxton explained.
And when Paxton learned that Kayhi's jazz band and jazz choir both earned runner-up rankings against 11 different student groups, she was surprised.
"We haven't really ever competed before for our music groups," she said. "So I thought that was really amazing."
Paxton said that from the experience, she learned adjudication isn't about "judging your every move," but about making the students better at their craft.
"And so you'll be better as a musician by going to that, to be adjudicated, and also seeing other groups perform and seeing college students perform just makes me, as a student, really excited to be in music in college," she said.
After graduating with the Kayhi Class of 2023, Paxton hopes to join either a marching or jazz band in college, and also become involved in theater arts.