Reprinted from the Omaha World-Herald: 17-year-old sax man racking up the miles for his musicBy Casey Logan / World-Herald staff writer | Posted: Monday, April 13, 2015 1:00 am
Skye Junginger, 17, is a senior at Logan View High School in Hooper, Nebraska, and winner of the Nebraska Wind Symphony's 2015 scholarship competition.
Every Friday, Skye Junginger makes the hourlong drive from his home in Hooper, Nebraska, to the Touch of Class Lounge in northwest Omaha. He arrives, unpacks his saxophone and spends the evening jamming with 93-year-old jazz pianist Buddy Graves’ band. It’s been his Friday night routine for the past few months. Junginger leaves Hooper shortly after school ends, plays his gig in Omaha, then heads back to his grandparents’ house. He is 17.
The Touch of Class appointment is one of many bringing the high school senior to Omaha each month. Junginger figures he visits the city four or five times per week. Sometimes it’s for the Metropolitan Area Youth Jazz Orchestra (MAYJO). Sometimes it’s for BluesEd, a young artist development program of the Blues Society of Omaha. Sometimes it’s to play a paid show with his quartet, Escape From AlcaJazz.
On Sunday, it will be for a particularly special occasion. Junginger will be a featured player with the Nebraska Wind Symphony, which named the high school senior its 2015 scholarship award recipient. Junginger will perform Claude T. Smith’s “Fantasia for Solo Alto Sax and Band.”
Things will get easier for Junginger — or at least, more efficient — when he enrolls this fall at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to study music. Already he has his sights on getting his master’s and doctoral degrees. He wants to teach jazz at the college level someday. He likes the idea of working with students young enough to still be learning but old enough to have committed themselves to the art form.
In other words, students like him.
Junginger first picked up the saxophone in sixth grade. A year later, he would have quit if his grandparents hadn’t pushed him to keep going. He hit his stride in high school and started looking beyond Hooper for opportunities. He studied jazz improvisation through the Cathedral Arts Project. He started playing at venues throughout Omaha as part of BluesEd. He joined Escape From AlcaJazz, played even more shows around town and recorded two CDs.
Now he doesn’t even like to think about almost quitting back in seventh grade.
“I have no idea what I would be doing,” he said. “Music has carried me throughout my life.”
He doesn’t know where he’d be without his grandparents, either. Junginger was born to a troubled teenage mom and absent father. His grandparents adopted him when he was 2 years old. They gave him instant stability and ongoing support.
“They’ve basically been my parents for me,” he said. “They’re the ones who really pushed me to do a lot of these things.”
Now he pushes himself. There’s a restlessness to his ambition, one that can make his final months of high school challenging.