When we last talked with Shenendehowa High School senior Casey Asaro last May as to how he was fairing with the pandemic lockdowns, he replied he had his sights set on becoming a music educator. That has not changed.
“Absolutely,” Asaro said, adding that he’d recently been accepted to the Crane School of Music (Potsdam) as a double major in music education and composition and a minor in jazz. “I’ve already contacted other students at Crane to continue to share with others my musical passion.”
Unlike many other music students headed to a conservatory in hopes of becoming a great performer, music education involves learning about all the other orchestral instruments, how to teach them, conduct music groups and especially to inspire.
“Music education gives me a purpose to share that passion with younger students,” Asaro said. “I’ve had such great teachers and this is a way to pay it forward so that the next generation has the outlet that I had. And it will give me more freedom as a teacher to perform outside. It’s a great career in my opinion.”
Asaro is a trumpet player and began lessons in fifth grade. It was one of five instruments available at the time that his band director said he had openings for in the band.
“I chose the trumpet because it was more exciting. It was always something that accentuated my outgoing personality,” he said. “I can project the sound and make sure I’m heard. The trumpet really clicked with me.”
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Although no one in his family is a musician, Asaro thrived and by middle school also began piano lessons for two years, picked up the guitar and currently is teaching himself the alto saxophone, and the flute. He also discovered classic rock and Led Zeppelin, which inspired him to learn the mandolin.
“On some of their tunes they used a mandolin and the parts were so well written, so beautiful,” he said.
In ninth grade, a band director introduced him to jazz and the art of improvisation. He took some theory classes and did a lot of study on his own.
“Improvisation is not planned out, it’s more freedom in the moment,” he said, adding that Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis were his favorite trumpeters.
Learning to improvise led him to try his hand at composition.
“I’ve not figured out my style yet, so I write brass quintets and brass quartets or for some jazz groups,” he said.
By high school, Asaro was playing in all the school’s jazz and concert band ensembles as well as All-State jazz band and All-County jazz band. But he’d never played in an orchestra until he played in the pit orchestra of the school’s production of “Guys and Dolls.”
“That was so much fun, but there was so much counting,” he said with a laugh.
Unlike in bands when trumpets get to play most of the time, in orchestra, trumpets do a lot of counting of measures of silence until they have to play.
“I really want to play in an orchestra and hope to do that in college,” he said.
Despite a heavy schedule in which he gets to play in a music ensemble every day of school, Asaro said he still manages to practice at least an hour a day. And he’s part of the school’s mentor program in which he gives younger trumpeters short lessons.
But Asaro is not all work and no play.
“I hike and am on my way to do all 46 High Peaks. I’ve done fourteen so far,” he said.
However, Crane and trumpet are not off his mind.
“I had a sample lesson with one of the trumpet teachers I’ll study with at Crane and it was an amazing experience,” Asaro said.