Grammy-winning saxophonist hopes to inspire local musicians

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- A jazz star is in Grand Junction, and he's adding a little rhythm and swing into a camp for local high school students.

It’s Colorado Mesa University’s 4th Annual Jazz workshop, to help young musicians in the Grand Valley expand their musical talents.

This year’s camp has a very special guest. Three-time Grammy winner Ralph Lalama is helping to teach some of the classes.

Lalama has won multiple Grammy’s for his saxophone skills with the Joe Lovano Nonet and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. The musician has also been nominated for several Grammy awards.

“Don't believe what they say that it’s just great to be nominated,” Lalama said. “I mean it is, don't get me wrong, but when you win, it's a different thing."

The saxophonist said his love for jazz began with his grandfather.

“He gave me my first clarinet at age 9, and at age 14 my father bought me a tenor saxophone for Christmas,” Lalama said.

As he grew, his passion for music also grew. Right after graduation, he moved to New York where he still lives today.

“Jazz is everything,” Lalama said. “It’s my life. It’s a great feeling.”

The saxophonist is now passing on his tuned talents to young, aspiring musicians in the Grand Valley.

“I think you have to love it,” he said. “When you love it, when you fall down, you get up."

He said that playing an instrument teaches kids a lot about discipline and focus.

“There’s a lot of personal sacrifice, but the rewards are great,” he said.

Grand Junction High School student, Mike Dackonish said he is a jazz enthusiast and is best at the saxophone, too.

“It’s just fun to put yourself out there and hear from the audience,” Dackoish said. “I feel how the audience feels.”

At the conclusion of the camp, Lalama will host a benefit concert to help with future high school jazz band camps at CMU. That concert will take place on Friday, June 2, at the Robinson Theatre at 7:30 pm.

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