Ask Zach Colton-Max, a senior at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, to name some of his idols and the names of several renowned musicians roll off his tongue: Stevie Wonder. Paul McCartney. Chick Corea. Brandon Paak Anderson (aka Anderson .Paak). Now he might have the opportunity to hobnob with these legends at the pre-eminent musical event.
Colton-Max, of South Orange, was one of 32 high school students from around the country chosen to attend the 2017 GRAMMY Camp-Jazz Session. Participants will spend 10 days in Los Angeles recording an album, rehearsing, and performing at various GRAMMY Week events. They will also attend the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 12. Five students from New Jersey were selected, and Colton-Max claims he’s the first ever from a Jewish day school.
“I’m really excited to be invited to these exclusive events that very few people ever get to go to, and to meet some of my idols in the industry and maybe get to talk to them, God willing,” he told NJJN.
“What a crazy honor.”
His music teacher, Kate Baker, suggested he apply to GRAMMY Camp, but he was reluctant, thinking he had no shot of being selected, and because the application was due around the same time as his brother’s bar mitzva and during college application season. His audition included everything from performing a scat solo to learning provided songs to interpolating music.
Of his reaction to the phone call from a member of the GRAMMY Foundation informing him of his selection, Colton-Max said, “I can’t really put it into words, but it was how thankful I was to be given this crazy opportunity to do something so cool.”
Colton-Max was accepted as a vocalist in the jazz session, but he has been playing guitar for longer than he’s been singing. He said he’s looking forward to meeting some talented musicians and teachers to increase his knowledge of jazz music and jazz theory, and he spends a minimum of about an hour and a half a day on music, focusing on scales, theory, writing songs, and sometimes recording.
He started guitar lessons at Mark Murphy Studio in South Orange in 2006 and still takes lessons there once each week with owner Mark Murphy. His voice lessons began there in 2010 and continued until 2016, adding lessons in 2013 with Baker, a jazz performer and instructor. He participated for many years in Mark Murphy’s selective band program, and has sung in the GOA choir since the sixth grade. At the time he spoke with NJJN, he had just returned home from rehearsals for the GOA production of Guys and Dolls, to be performed Jan. 12, 14, and 15 at JCC MetroWest in West Orange.
“GRAMMY Camp-Jazz Session provides an unparalleled experience for some of the most talented young jazz singers and instrumentalists in the U.S. through extraordinary rehearsal, performance, and recording opportunities during GRAMMY Week,” said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation, in a prepared statement. “The Recording Academy and its affiliated charities are proud to be a place of inspiration and collaboration for this program that encourages many of these gifted high school students to pursue professional careers in the music industry.”
Other 2017 GRAMMY Camp-Jazz Session participants from New Jersey include Maya Stepansky, Nathan Farrell, and Claudia Nketia of Montclair, Reid Christmann of Summit, and Esteban Castro of Hackensack.
Colton-Max has other interests beyond music, including politics, and he isn’t sure what the future holds for him professionally, but he said, “Whatever I do, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without music.”