This past summer, senior Elan Stadelmann embarked on a two-week musical journey at the Litchfield Jazz Camp, an enhancive program at the Gunnery School for high school students interested in exploring the depths of jazz. For Elan, he said this meant spending two weeks in heaven. “The camp was amazing no matter what we were doing, whether it was transcription, working through scales, or playing tunes,” he said.
Elan said that each day at the sleepaway camp was scheduled pretty much the same, but every minute was worth it for him. “Each day lasted from around 8:45 in the morning to 10:00 at night. First, we’d go to combo, which is the group of students you worked with for the majority of the time,” he said. “Then we’d attend a music theory class and a master class, where I learned some helpful tonal exercises and tips on how to prep my reeds.”
After that, Elan said each student had time for an elective music course, such as the “Listening to Jazz” course Elan decided to do in order to further immerse himself in the jazz world. Everyone was then given a free hour to do what they would like, which Elan used for practicing his pieces. “Every night we also had a faculty concert because all the faculty were actual artists and they were good since music is their main job in real life,” he said.
Elan said that all the faculty at the Gunnery were extremely supportive and instructive, but he appreciated one specific faculty member, Pedro Millan, the most. “He was tough but I remember after the first week was over, he went up to me after my concert and told me what he thought,” he said. “He made me feel validated, and he understood I was putting in all my effort, but he still gave me some helpful pointers.” Elan said that Millan was so impressed with him that they ended up following each other on Instagram and still have stayed in touch.
Elan said the most valuable part of the camp for him was receiving support from both teachers and students alike, because before he had never been entirely sure if music was the right career path for him. “It was an awakening for me, like I have to pursue music in my life. I don’t know what yet, but I have to do something with music,” he said. Elan said he is grateful that he realized what he wanted to do with his life before he sent in college applications so that he could better understand where he really wanted to go.
What made his experiences at the camp possible, Elan said, was that he had received the Joseph Spinella Scholarship in the spring. “I had always wanted the opportunity to go, but financially I never could, so getting the grant was so amazing,” he said. A baritone saxophone player in the KO Jazz Combo, he also said he was grateful for his teachers and peers at KO for helping him build his confidence and musical abilities. “I’m really so blessed to be surrounded every day by people at KO who are all such awesome people, and I couldn’t thank them enough for everything.”
Elan said that he also recently joined an outside-of-school jazz band called “Old School,” which is a group of 15-19-year-olds who all want to pursue jazz music further. According to Elan, people who get together outside of school are more driven and more excited to work together, even though it takes a lot of work. “It’s so much fun and I love it because it’s nice to be in a room of people that bring you up and help you develop your skills, instead of thinking of music as a drag,” he said.
Deeply grounded in talent and hard work, Elan said he is excited about the future and to see where else his love for music will take him.