Janelle Sharp, an eighth-grade student at Ottawa Middle School, began playing trumpet in sixth grade only to discover her melodic moxie eventually earned her a spot in the Kansas John Philip Sousa Jr. Honor Band.
“It was really fun,” Janelle, 14, said of her experience with the band. “I liked being surrounded by good players around my age. It was a lot of fun.”
The daughter of a former band director, Janelle quickly learned the three-valve brass instrument, Jen Sharp, Janelle’s mother, said. Janelle now practices about 10 hours a week between band and private lessons, Jen Sharp added, and enjoys playing a variety of music. While she dabbled in learning other instruments, Janelle said, she has a new-found her knack with the trumpet.
“Piano and guitar was fun, but it wasn’t my instrument,” Janelle said. “I heard a song by Michael Bublé that had a trumpet solo in there and I just loved it and wanted to sound just like it.”
After hearing that song, Jen Sharp said, Janelle was intent on learning more.
“She’s [progressed] very fast with [the trumpet],” Jen Sharp, who currently teaches drum lessons at Ottawa Music, 120 E. 19th St., said. “She always had in her ear how she wanted to sound. And when she first picked up the trumpet and it didn’t sound like what was in her head, she was not happy. But after she got the hang of [the trumpet], and it didn’t take her long, she has wonderful sound. Everyone loves her sound.”
Although a musical aptitude runs in the family, Jen Sharp said, her daughter’s talents have been cultivated entirely by her own initiative. Janelle’s drive and determination to become better, Jen Sharp said, is clear from her dedication to master the trumpet.
To earn a spot in the John Philip Sousa Jr. Honor Band, Janelle recorded a video audition while playing the trumpet, which she later sent to the John Phillip Sousa Foundation. The judges apparently were impressed and awarded her a spot with the band along with dozens of other Kansas band students. While many auditioned, Janelle was the only student from the Ottawa school district to be accepted into the band, Jen Sharp said.
“I’m just happy for her that they still have wonderful events like this,” Jen Sharp, who earned a music education degree from Kansas State University, said.
The Kansas John Philip Sousa Jr. Honor Band offers students in sixth through ninth grades an “experience for young musicians in the State of Kansas,” the organization’s website reads. Near the end of January, the band performed at the University of Kansas’ Lied Center in front of a few hundred people, Jen Sharp said. While nerve racking, Janelle said, the experience definitely was worth it.
“It took a lot of practicing to get to where I wanted to be,” Janelle, who performed various Sousa marches and the Fantasia theme during the event, said, adding that she played with about 100 other band students. “At the rehearsal, we spent eight hours practicing with the whole band. ... It was a really great experience.”
In addition to the joy music brings, Jen Sharp said, her daughter’s opportunity with the honor band also imparted other valuable experience.
“There’s a lot of benefit from just being in a team situation,” Jen Sharp, who owns and operates a skydiving company in Osage City, said. “People are relying on you, and that’s why I always loved band. Even if kids don’t end up making music a part of a job, there’s a ton of things band teaches them. They don’t sit on the sidelines in band — they have to play no matter what your talent level. You’re in the group, you better do your part. ... Even if Janelle decides she’s not going to make money doing music, the enjoyment and the things it’s taught her about putting time in is just wonderful.”