UVM Sophomore Begins to Take on the Jazz World

Story and Photo by Kurstin Reuschel, Editor

Mostly concentrated in Burlington and Montpelier, jazz music has found a solid following in Vermont. With the annual Jazz Festival in Burlington and live music venues like Radio Bean, the jazz connoisseur can find his fix here in the Green Mountain State. Chris Barosky, 19, has already fully emerged himself into the scene playing gigs around the state as a freelance jazz bassist. During this year’s Jazz Fest Chris made his way up to Big Heavy from Waitsfield, VT to join me for an interview about his journey in Vermont’s Jazz scene. As he wandered up the stairs a little unsure if he was lost, he peeked his way into Big Heavy and sat on our “brand new” interview couch.

“It’s crazy that a state so small is producing such amazing musicians and such amazing music,” Chris says.

He's been playing music since he was ten, beginning with the acoustic guitar, eventually gravitating to electric, then bass, he says. As a teen pop-punk enthusiast, Chris loved bands like Blink 182 and aspired to one day be in a band like them. It was not until his junior year at Harwood Union High School did he realize jazz was his passion.

Harwood’s “A-Band,” much like a varsity jazz band, took a trip to the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Competition. The band was to perform a piece by Dave Holland called “Shadow Dance,” where he had to play an unaccompanied bass solo. In preparation he listened to Holland's record for two weeks straight, Chris says. “It was apparent that I had the chops to play some of what Dave played in his solo and when it came time to play this tune in front of about 2,500 people. The adrenaline and emotion in those moments made me realize I needed to be playing jazz,” he says.

As he is about to enter his sophomore year at UVM, Chris is double-majoring in music and English with respective concentrations in jazz performance and creative writing. Right now he is living at home and practicing as much as possible working to get gigs around the area.

“You should love what you are doing, and if you love that in your life then it’s not very difficult,” he says. “I just need to set aside time to practice every day, and sacrifice other things like work. All I do is music.”

Vermont is a good way to ease yourself into a professional setting while learning about the music business works, Chris says. Within Vermont there is a large enough network of jazz musicians to find different styles and personalities while still intimate enough to know pretty much everyone, he says.

“What's cool about Vermont in terms of jazz is that we have such great talent but it's not at all cut-throat like it is in New York City,” he says. “You definitely have to arrive at a certain level of musicianship before you'll be hired to play gigs, but from there you can figure out if it's what you want your life to be or not.”

After finishing at UVM Chris plans to go to New York City to do grad work and eventually hopes to become a professional jazz musician.

“There's just something emotionally revealing and touching about jazz that is hard to find in most pop music that people are obsessed with on the radio. A lot of people, including myself when I was younger think jazz is some intellectual high art reserved only for those who were raised in it or play it; something impossible to understand in its complexity. If they would only step back and feel it, then they would be pleasantly surprised and drawn in to what it does for the soul.”