There's no combination of words to describe Andy Fisher exactly the right way. To introduce the world to him, the best way to start would be to say he's a determined band geek who saysmusic became a vital part of his life "like you know, the second day I was born."
Andy, 17, is a senior at Niagara Falls High School who decided late in his high school career to major in music education. He took private lessons and has become a vital part of the music program at school. He has recently composed his first full-length jazz song, proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with as he auditions for colleges and hopes to head off to his top choice -- Ithaca College -- next fall.
After playing trumpet for six years in school, Andy decided he wanted to pursue music as a career.
"One time I was hanging out with my friend, Mark. He was talking about how he appreciates how much I love music. Mark said it was just a hobby to him, just something to do. But for me, it wasn't," Andy says. "It hit me then how much I love it and that I want to pursue it for the rest of my life."
He approached band director Paul Wos with his ambitions.
"I was first surprised," Wos said. "I didn't have an inkling this is what he wanted to do until he mentioned it to me. I told him it was a possibility but he needed to start studying with a private teacher in order to prepare for college auditions. Music is so competitive, you need to be ready your senior year in order to audition and be above the rest so colleges will want you to join their ranks. Andy was a little behind in making this decision, but he has worked well and will be successful."
As Andy started taking private lessons with Wos, music education started to seem like the right thing to him. It was a way to make a living and to make a huge impact on music students.
It's a tough field to get into, but Niagara Falls High School's Jazz Ensemble teacher, Jack Pryblyski, known as Mr. Ski to students, believes Andy has what it takes to succeed. "He has the talent as a performer and a composer. In addition to that Andy definitely has the necessary people skills in order to be a teacher; he has the ambition and drive," Pryblyski said.
Andy has already been known to help other band members out as he has taught the freshmen trumpets the past few years in marching band.
Andy says the song he composed for jazz ensemble came about last summer while playing the trumpet. Andy played a few notes "that struck a chord in me." He said the full piece came out in about a month.
He showed the song to Wos, who agreed to let the Jazz Lab group perform it at some point during the year. However, there were not enough people interested in joining Jazz Lab. In late September, a friend suggested playing his song at the theater department's fundraiser, Behind the Proscenium. Behind the Proscenium, a variety show, was titled "And All that Jazz."
Andy formed a band with his lunch partners.
With a bit of practice, the band auditioned for Proscenium and eventually performed at Proscenium, getting a standing ovation from the audience.
"I was nervous at first," said Andy, "but it was awesome to play it for people, the crowd was positive. I'm thoroughly satisfied."
Upon hearing that Andy composed a song, Pryblyski decided the Jazz Ensemble should also perform it.
"It's good, very entertaining," he said. "It's a great first effort. I hope he writes more. I'm very glad he wrote it and I'm excited for the ensemble to perform it. It's not an easy task. I'm glad he took the challenge and he succeeded."
Pryblyski also informed Andy that he wanted to make an arrangement of his song to potentially play in one of the groups he's involved in.
Andy has revised the piece a bit.
The holiday concert, which takes place at 7 tonight at the high school, will feature the Jazz Ensemble playing Andy's song.
Andy says he gets his inspiration from many people, but names jazz trumpeters Lee Morgan and Chet Baker; guitarist Buckethead; Mikael Akerfeldt, lead vocalist/guitarist of Opeth, and composer Gordon Goodwin.
Andy also credits his friends and his grandmother, Sharon Hockenberry, for supporting him.
"Whether [my grandmother] enjoys my music or not, she appreciates how much work I put into it. She would appreciate [the work I put into] it even if I was writing death metal, which she despises," he said.
His two band teachers also helped him along his way.
"Mr. Wos is my private instructor. He's taught me techniques that will stay with me the rest of my career. He has helped me prepare for the long musical journey ahead of me," Andy said. "Mr. Ski is the conductor of the NFHS Jazz Ensemble and through this, he has encouraged me in my soloing and composition."
Andy has applied at several colleges, including Ithaca, Fredonia State College, Buffalo State College and Baldwin Wallace. This past week, Andy started the process of auditioning at these schools, which is required from applicants of music programs at most schools.
Pryblyski says he believes Andy will "be a loud crashing success with lots of students benefiting."
"I get sappy when it comes to music. Music makes the world go round. People don't appreciate enough of the effort and talent musicians possess to write music," Andy said. "People take it as a sound to entertain them, but it's a musician's way of expressing themselves so they should appreciate it more."
Isabella Fagiani is a junior at Niagara Falls High School.