Rising Jazz Star: Nathan Leung


Gina Ko

junior Nathan Leung is saxophonist and drum major at Huron band

Daniel S. Lee, Staff Writer

Imagine you’re standing on stage, spotlights blinding your vision, no music in front of you, and you have to come up with an award-winning solo on the spot in front of jazz experts, students, and legendary jazz James Carter.

On February 10th, the Huron Rhythm Rat Jazz Orchestra traveled to Central Michigan University to attend and perform the 50th Annual Jazz Festival. However, while non of the members expected to win anything, the ensemble won 3 awards. One of them was the “outstanding soloist” award, given to the lead alto saxophone player, junior Nathan Leung.

“I was definitely not expecting it, I’m just starting to learn the basics of jazz improvisation,” Leung said. “I was happy not only for myself but for the band since we won the most outstanding band award as well.”

Leung is the first chair alto saxophone for Huron’s symphony band and has been studying classical saxophone until sophomore year when he decided to join jazz band. Going forward, Leung hopes to develop his own jazz style, continuing to work on rhythm and improvising over chord changes. 

“I’m mostly a classical player, but jazz is a genre I’m very interested in,” Leung said. “One of my greatest inspirations is Chad LB, he improvises over chord changes and navigates between them very smoothly. He also does really fast runs which makes my heart jump.”

As the 50th anniversary of the Jazz Festival was a big event for jazz, James Carter, a legendary jazz saxophonist was invited as the guest artist. Those who attended the event were able to attend a free concert at the end, which consisted of CMU’s Jazz Lab and of course James Carter’s crazy solos (in the best way possible).

“Carter’s use of extended techniques, melody to inject charisma, and his ability to interact with the audience in jazz really inspired me,” Leung said. 

Jazz improvisation has such a wide spectrum, and it can be really hard to come up with unique rhythms and melodies that soar over the music the band is playing. Leung explained what he thought about while soling.

“[It’s like]coming up with new rhythms, melodies, and phrases on the spot, making my own music,” Leung said. “It’s very satisfying.” 

Even though jazz is a complete 180 from classical music, Leung loves getting a taste of both worlds. Being both the upcoming drum major for the marching band and the first chair in both band and jazz band, it’s exciting to wonder what Nathan Leung will accomplish next.