Trumpeter Grady Flamm and vibraphonist, composer and arranger Jackson Irvine are two young musicians with a bright future. The recent graduates of Rio Americano High School and the excellent jazz program there are now freshmen at the prestigious Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.
CapRadio’s Andrew Mills spent some time with Grady and Jackson where they discussed their time at Rio Americano, what drew them to the Thornton School and what it’s like to meet your idol.
On their experience at Rio Americano
Jackson: I love that school so much. It gave me a lot of opportunities. My directors, Mr. Josh Murray, Maxwell Kiesner, and Mitch Evett, who just joined last year, were really great mentors, teachers, and educators and they sort of pushed me in the right direction. Put me where I am today, so I’m really thankful for that.
Grady: One of the great things about Rio is kids get invested in the program long before they actually reach high school. I remember my elementary school band director taking me and the rest of our jazz band at the time to Rio to see the older kids play, and many of those kids were instrumental in inspiring myself and a number of my peers. That’s part of the reason we were able to have so much success in our time at Rio.
On traveling to New York for the Essentially Ellington competition
Grady: Believe it or not, I’ve been spoiled in the Rio band. It was not my first trip to New York, but it was certainly the most memorable. At that point, I had been to New York twice before with Rio’s Charles Mingus ensemble and we’d try out for the Charles Mingus Jazz Festival and high school competition out in New York. We’ve made it the past eight or nine years, but the trip to New York in May of  was certainly one to remember.
On meeting Wynton Marsalis at a competition in New York
Grady: We had played, and I was fortunate enough to be featured in the set quite a bit, so he got to hear me play and he told me I had great ears, he could tell I’ve done my homework, to keep doing it, and that I’m on the right track. So, that was obviously a great thing to hear from one of my luminaries for sure.
Why they chose the Thornton School of Music at USC
Jackson: I think one of the main reasons I went to USC was the faculty members are just absolutely stacked. One of my favorite jazz vocalists, Sara Gazarek is a faculty member at USC. I’m actually really excited to meet her.
Grady: In the end I chose Thornton just ‘cause I wanted to stay on the West Coast. I think Thornton is really the place to be. L.A. is a huge multicultural, multi everything really, and center of the entertainment industry. I’m excited for the opportunities. There’s no match for LA in that regard.
Final words of inspiration
Grady: If you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, you just gotta do it.