By Marion Filler
It takes courage to compete for a spot in Morristown Onstage; so many other talented people are in the running. Henry Yip wondered if he had a chance.
He attended the amateur talent show two years ago, and liked the atmosphere and enthusiasm.
“I thought it was really cool. But, yeah, I thought, ‘I’ll never do that,'” recounted the 13-year-old saxophonist.
When so many school activities were cancelled during the pandemic, Yip changed his mind and decided to audition. He is one of 13 finalists chosen to compete at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Feb. 23, 2022.
Yip, a student at the Frelinghuysen Middle School in Morris Township, has performed in school programs such as Jazz House Kids and the New Jersey Youth Symphony, but never as a solo act.
“This is definitely a first for me,” he said.
Now in its 15th year, Morristown Onstage has raised more than $1.2 million for programs in the Morris School District. The competition is open to amateur performers who live, work, or attend schools in Morristown, Morris Township or Morris Plains; and to Morristown High School alumni.
A panel of entertainment pros will choose winners of $1,000 prizes in the youth and adult divisions. One finalist also will take home $500 as the audience favorite.
“I don’t think I’m bad per se,” Yip said, explaining his initial reluctance to try out.
“I’ve just heard so many good saxophonists in my time. I go to programs and I’ve seen how many other good players there are in this area and there’s a lot, and they are very good.”
Although pleasantly surprised by his acceptance, it’s really not surprising. He started preparing for this moment long before he could lift a sax. His first contact with music was in Madison at Shanghai Jazz, a restaurant owned by his aunt, Martha Chang.
“I went there as a kid and saw a lot of stuff,” said Yip. His aunt sold the place when he was 9, but by then his musical groundwork had been laid.
When Yip reached 3rd grade, his family encouraged his talent with private lessons.
“I studied with a lot of people, and I don’t think I could ever get to where I am now if I didn’t have lots of other really good musicians to help me,” Yip said.
Two college-age brothers are sources of inspiration.
“Alex plays trumpet, he plays jazz, and he’s good. Colin though Is really good, he plays the clarinet. He has one of the most awe-inspiring mindsets about practicing music. He practices every day and holds himself to such a high standard. I wish I could get some of those qualities from him.”
When he plays the Frank Sinatra hit Fly Me to the Moon next month, Yip will put his ability and confidence to the test in a 1,300-seat theater that has hosted some of the biggest names in show biz.
“I have performed onstage before, for school and various jazz programs…but those were smaller performances for parents,” he acknowledged.
Yet Yip has practiced the piece so many times, he’s pretty sure that muscle memory will deliver all the right notes–freeing him to add dashes of color. Just like Ol’ Blue Eyes.
The Morris Educational Foundation presents the 15th anniversary edition of Morristown Onstage, a benefit for the Morris School District, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Feb. 23, 2022. See show website for ticket information. New this year: A raffle with $30,000 in cash prizes.