You could say Jason Berlinsky likes to toot his own horn.
“My neighbors hate me!” the Morristown High School senior said with a grin.
Everyone around school, on the other hand, seems delighted whenever Jason picks up his trumpet.
Last night he received the school’s annual Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, which recognizes a student who combines exceptional musical talent with strong leadership qualities.
“Jason’s been really spectacular… He was a natural choice,” said Michael Russo, conductor of the Spectrum Jazz Band, where Jason plays second trumpet.
Award winners do things like “making sure people are on time. Underclassmen look up to them, they lead by example,” said the teacher, who gave Jason his certificate at the school’s 21st annual Jazz Night concert last night.
The evening included a commanding rendition of “Misty” by 1999 graduate Blaire Reinhard, backed by the school’s Jazz Too! group under the direction of Doug Rutan, who blogs about music for MorristownGreen.com.
Senior Jeremy Barkin laid down his tenor sax to sing a smooth version of “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” Another fine sax player and longtime friend of MG, Gus Bacas, sparkled on a clarinet solo. The Jazz Choir, conducted by Michael Nuzzo, had fun with the Pink Panther theme. And the Frelinghuysen Falcon Jazz Band showed that the high school’s farm team is loaded with future stars.
PROGRAMMING HIS FUTURE
If Jason ever runs out of breath on the trumpet, chances are he can create an electronic version of the instrument. His introduction to computing came at age four, when, for reasons he still can’t explain, he started reading about making recovery discs for Windows 95.
He recalls misinterpreting “label the floppy disc” as “take a whole roll of masking tape, wrap it around the disc, and jam it in the drive.”
“Needless to say, that didn’t go too well, but my father saw some potential in computers for me and got me started programming,” Jason said. At age 8 he started his own computer company. “Figured I could make a little bit more than selling lemonade,” he said. He started taking computing courses at the County College of Morris while he was still in middle school. A few summers later, he was honing his computer skills at Harvard.
Now, between band rehearsals, he designs websites and iPhone apps. He plans to pursue computer engineering this fall at the University of Michigan.
His trumpeting dates to the fourth grade. He caught the jazz bug at Frelinghuysen Middle School, thanks to music teacher John Schumacher.
“He recruited me, and it sounded good,” Jason said. He continues to take private lessons with John.
Jason also performs in the school’s marching band and orchestra. On Memorial Day, he played Taps on the Morristown Green with fellow senior Sam Brusco.
A fan of Charles Mingus, Jason considers two- to three-hours of daily jazz practice as relaxation. “It’s a stress-reliever. It calms me down.”
He also appreciates the camaraderie that comes from performing with classmates for years.
“Knowing how they would react in any given situation gives you a sense of confidence,” Jason said.
We’re pretty confident that this young man will do just fine in Ann Arbor.