Senior Grant Blaszko and junior Jon Balyeat apprenticed for the Hartford Artists Collective


Learning from the best — The opportunity interning for the Jazz Orchestra with the Hartford Artists Collective allowed junior Jon Balyeat (middle) to learn from Michael Carabello (left), internship coordinator and Piano instructor, and Rene McLean (right), saxophone professional.

Rachel Wolkoff, Editor-in-Chief

Senior Grant Blaszko has played piano his whole life, beginning to take it more seriously at about six years old with formal lessons. From then Blaszko’s love of instruments and music took off leading him to learn the baritone horn in fifth grade, the tuba in wind ensemble more recently, and anything else he has access to in his free time. 

Junior Jon Balyeat currently plays both alto and tenor saxophone and upright and electric bass, along with guitar and piano although he is more inexperienced in the latter. At nine years old, Balyeat picked up alto saxophone, however, he began to take music much more seriously, including trying to increase his instrument collection, after learning the upright bass at 13. 

“One of the applications’ main questions was: why do I create art? The reason for me is I am a very imaginative person who always comes up with so many stories and the goal behind my music is to express myself through the stories I tell,” Balyeat said. 

Both students have Band Teacher Mrs. Leslie Imse to thank for making them aware of the program and the opportunities it provides. The application process, which took place last March, consisted of questions on them as musicians, their musical backgrounds, and an audition with various instruments over zoom.

“I believe that the reason that they selected Grant and Jon was due to their versatility as musicians. They are composers and performers who play many different instruments and are so active in our school music program. I was so happy to write recommendations on their behalf,” Imse said. 

Apprenticing for the Jazz Orchestra with the Harford Artists Collective started with a two week period online due to the ongoing pandemic. During this time the program focused on music theory, analysis, and the history of African civilizations, cultures, and key artists that shaped African American music styles. 

The next four weeks occurred in-person in Hartford and narrowed in on learning to improvise with the music, new techniques, and playing by ear. Many of the jazz charts and music available were written by founder of the program, Jackie McLean, and Rene McLean professor at the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at University of Hartford. 

Overall, the experience allowed both musicians to develop an appreciation of types of African American music such as jazz, funk, blues, and soul along with allowing each musician to grow in their experience and talent. Since gaining these invaluable skills, Balyeat and Blaszko plan to build on this momentum with the help of their newly obtained musical knowledge.