Michael Raehpour is having a satisfying senior year.
Not only did he have a chance to perform in the Inaugural Parade during President Barack Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony on Jan. 21, he also was invited to perform in a group of 32 students from across the country at the Grammy Awards after party.
Raehpour has been playing the trumpet since the fall of 2005, when he was in fifth grade.
“When I first decided to join band, I had two options,” Raehpour said. “One, I could do writing, or two, I could do band. This was fifth grade so I chose band because no fifth grader gets excited about writing.”
Raehpour said he is not sure what drew him to the trumpet when picking out an instrument to play.
“I guess it looked easy because I thought ‘hey, this thing only has three valves,’ so I think it was the simplicity of everything that appealed to me,” Raehpour said. “But then I discovered it’s not as easy as I thought.”
He discovered a passion for playing the trumpet the summer after his seventh grade year, when he started taking lessons from Don Duncan at Wichita State University.
“I got to hear what a good trumpet player sounds like, and I just thought to myself ‘I wanna sound like that one day.’” Raehpour said.
Raehpour also takes lessons from Jeff Gordon at Friends University, and occasionally travels up to Lawrence to take lessons with Kansas University trumpet professor Steve Leisring.
Not only does Raehpour take lessons from professional musicians, he also gives lessons to younger students at Music Scene in Andover.
“I love teaching kids,” he said, “I’ve taught fifth graders through high schoolers. It’s just fun.
Raehpour is in other music groups in addition to the symphonic and jazz bands of Andover High School. He is in the Mid-Kansas Jazz Band at Bethel College, a local professional band called Cool Blue and he has played in the Kansas All-State Jazz Band for the last three years.
Music is definitely in Raehpour’s future. Next year, he plans to attend KU to major in Music Education.
“I feel that just playing professionally is relatively hard and unstable, so with teaching you can do both,” Raehpour said. “You can teach during the day, and play on the weekends and what not. And that’s really what I’d like to do. I don’t know if I wanna teach middle school, high school, or college, I’ll make that decision later. We’ll see what that will have in store for me.”
Page 2 of 4 - Total, Raehpour owns five trumpets, some of which he has given names to. His main trumpet that he plays is named Claudia.
“I just saw her one day and though ‘she looks like a Claudia,’” Raehpour said.
Claudia has assisted Raehpour in performing numerous solos over the years. He said every time he plays a solo in front of an audience, he gets stage fright, and the only way he deals with it is to just get up and do it.
“I’ve never found a way to just sit down and get over it,” Raehpour said. “The mindset I get into is ‘the people are there to be entertained, not to freak you out.’”
Raehpour’s directors said Raehpour is different from the average high school music student.
“His maturity level is much different,” AHS band director Ray Linville said. “He plays at a much different level than most high school students. He plays at a level where a lot of professionals are.”
Assistant AHS band director Zach Lorenson agreed.
“Michael is extremely talented, he’s very gifted,” Lorenson said. “But he also practices a ton, and has a great work ethic.”
In January, Raehpour got the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to perform in the Presidential Inaugural Parade with the KU Trumpet Ensemble.
“That was an awesome trip,” he said, “Just playing with all those people who are so much better than me was great. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but you get to a level where once you’re playing with a bunch of people under your level, it gets kinda boring. But now I’ve totally flipped that, and I was one of the worst players there, which is why I’m excited for college.”
One difference from marching in the Inaugural Parade than marching with the AHS Marching Band for Raehpour was playing with sheet music in front of him while marching.
“Of course, if we had more than 12 days to put everything together, I imagine we wouldn’t have had to use those,” Raehpour said. “I’ve never marched with music before, but sometimes it’s necessary, especially if you’ve only seen the music twice.”
After the Inaugural Parade, Raehpour had a few days to relax before heading out to Los Angeles to perform with 31 other high school students at the Grammy after party. He arrived in LA on Feb. 1.
“That day, we just kinda hung around, and introduced ourselves to everybody,” Raehpour said. “We had a little reception that night with all the directors and all the people who put everything together. We just kinda found out who everyone was.”
Page 3 of 4 - The next day, Raehpour began rehearsing with the rest of the band. Until the following Tuesday, Feb. 5, the group had rehearsals from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We didn’t leave the rehearsal room until dinner, but it was fun,” Raehpour said.
On Feb. 5, Raehpour’s group had their first performance for the Grammy in the Schools Live event. They had one show that day for high school students.
“It was nice to kinda inspire them to really get focused on music, and see what you can do when your hard work pays off.”
That night, they played a concert with Juarez, a jazz singer. The next day, they had a concert with Arturo Sandoval, a big name in trumpet players, according to Raehpour.
That Friday, Feb. 8, the group recorded music at Capitol Records.
“I’ve never been in an actual recording studio before, so being there was a real treat,” Raehpour said.
On Feb. 9, the Grammy nominee reception was held, where Raehpour and the band were first exposed to celebrities, including Jack Black and Gordon Goodwin, Raehpour said. The following day, the Grammy awards were held.
The Grammy Awards were held at the Staples Center in LA. When the band arrived, Raehpour said a group of five or six of them walked on the Red Carpet to represent the band. Even though he was not selected to walk on the carpet, he still had a chance to do so.
“I mean, technically my feet did touch the Red Carpet, so I tell people that I walked on the Red Carpet,” Raehpour said.
Raehpour said seeing the pre-telecast events of the Grammy awards was a plus, and it was a chance for him to see some celebrities up close.
“I saw Taylor Swift, that was cool,” Raehpour said. “I saw the Jonas Brothers as I walked in, too.”
Raehpour’s stepsister bought him an “I (Heart) Selena Gomez” shirt to wear at an opportune moment. Raehpour did not see Gomez, and said he did not wear the shirt to the Grammy’s because it would have blended through the white shirt on his tuxedo.
Once the pre-telecast awards were over, the group moved to the actual awards section for the televised awards ceremony. Raehpour was seated at the top of the room.
“It was neat because I was high enough that I was to see what was going on backstage; I got to see how everything was moving and got put together,” Raehpour said.
After the Grammy’s concluded, Raehpour and the band performed at the Grammy after party. When they finished performing, they had 45 minutes to mingle with guests at the after party.
Page 4 of 4 - “For the entire 45 minutes, I think I just went around and ate the entire time,” Raehpour said. “I think I found everything I could and just ate it, and who can blame me?”
Raehpour said his time at the after party was unique.
“Most people wouldn’t expect ‘Oh, you’re at the Grammy after party, what did you do?’ and to hear back ‘Oh, I just ate everything and drank Coke,’” Raehpour said. “I guess that’s just me.”
The day after the Grammy awards, Feb. 11, Raehpour returned home.
“It was sad to say goodbye to everybody, but I was real excited to get back home to Andover and get back to seeing my friends and everything,” Raehpour said. “But now I’ve got connections all over the country.”
Lorenson thinks Raehpour will put those newfound connections to good use in his career.
“He has such a great attitude,” Lorenson said. “He’s so easy to work with. He has no ego at all, and that’s going to serve him very well.”