For nearly a decade, Jared Mulcahy has honed his skills on the upright bass.
Specializing in jazz music, the Skaneateles High School junior was recently honored in the June edition of the jazz trade publication Downbeat Magazine in its 33rd Annual Student Music Awards.
Mulcahy was chosen as one of five outstanding musical performers by high school students in the United States.
And he traces his love for music back to his musical family from a young age.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve been fed great music by my dad, especially Jimmy Hendrix,” Mulcahy said.
His father, Tim, is a “recreational musician” that plays guitar and sings for fun. His mother, Kristen, is a music teacher at State Street School in Skaneateles and his older sister, Rachel, studies musical theater at SUNY Fredonia.
When Mulcahy was in second grade, his mother suggested he take up the upright bass. However, he said it wasn’t until eighth grade that he began to realize his musical strengths.
“I’m definitely glad I chose the bass because it’s a universally needed instrument,” he said.
It was also during this time that he began to focus on jazz.
“I like jazz because of the improvisational side. It’s so free, and being able to express yourself through notes and rhythms is great,” he said. “It’s really like a stream of consciousness when you’re playing.”
Today, Mulcahy practices and plays the bass about 15 hours each week. In school, he is involved in the high school orchestra and jazz band, and also sings in the chorus and madrigal choir. In his free time, he takes private classical lessons with Dave Perry and private jazz lessons with Phil Flanagan.
He also plays with the Young Lions of CNY big band jazz ensemble conducted by Joe Columba, as well as the Salt City Jazz Collective. The 16-member big band plays gigs at the Syracuse Suds Factory the first Wednesday of every month.
“It’s pretty cool. I get to jam with the old guys,” he said with a laugh.
Last summer, Mulcahy attended the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony in California where he was one of 20 students chosen to study under some of the best jazz performers in the country for a week. After that, he attended the Vail Jazz Workshop in Colorado where he took private lessons with jazz legend John Clayton and other jazz musicians.
“Last summer was basically the pinnacle of my jazz career so far,” Mulcahy said. “I’ve improved so much since then.”
Mulcahy’s track to stardom in Downbeat Magazine began about three months ago when he sent in recordings of himself accompanied by piano to the magazine’s competition
And then the wait began.
“They didn’t tell us who won. We just had to wait to crack open the magazine to find out,” he said.
The news that he was one of the five chosen came from his jazz conductor, Angelo Candela, at school a few weeks ago. Mulcahy’s initial reaction: “Oh man, that’s cool!”
“My parents bought at least five copies of the magazine, and jazz friends from all across the country left me Facebook messages congratulating me. It was pretty cool,” he said.
Mulcahy also won the magazine’s “Junior High Soloist” award in 2007.
Next year, Mulcahy plans on looking into music schools for college. Those on his radar include Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, the New School, SUNY Purchase and the New England Conservatory.
“Maybe one day I’ll be a music teacher, but right now I plan on becoming a jazz performer,” he said.