Caleb Chapman and his entourage of young musicians pump it up one big band tune at a time.
This isn’t kids' play. Oh, no—the middle and high schoolers behind Caleb Chapman Music are good. So good, in fact, they’ve logged airtime on Sirius XM and headlined at festivals from Boston to Telluride.
“They are professional musicians—that’s why our groups are so in demand,” says Caleb Chapman, who launched the program in 2000 and now directs some of the state’s most talented young musicians. “You get some of the best music, but you also get the excitement of young ambition.”
From three-piece jazz combos to the 22-piece Voodoo Orchestra, Chapman’s nine ensembles feature musicians between the ages of 11 and 18—all of whom audition for one of 150 highly competitive spots. They tour Europe and book gigs like Salt Lake’s Eve celebration, playing songbook hits, rockabilly, soul, salsa and ska.
It started more than a decade ago when a couple of students approached Chapman about starting a band. He offered direction, and they began booking gigs and soon expanded to several groups. By 2008, the flagship Crescent Super Band was really getting noticed. “It’s been a whirlwind since,” Chapman says, noting his musicians snag more than $1 million in scholarships each year. Two-hour performances start at $500, while the Cresent Super Band can reach upwards of $10,000. Most of the money goes back to the musicians to fund tour accounts and program scholarships. Though he’s intricately involved with sets and leading large bands on stage, Chapman says his role isn’t as a teacher. “These musicians are playing like pros,” he explains. “When you get older guys, it’s a job. With these kids, it’s an experience.”