John Sevy maintains rhythm with studies, music
By Aaron Reynolds
John Sevy is a senior at Berthoud High School who marches to his own beat, both literally and figuratively. He is one of the top students at the high school in the class of 2017, with a current GPA of 3.95. He is also one of the most talented and decorated musicians to come out of Berthoud in quite some time, if ever.
Since Sevy arrived on campus for the 2013-14 school year, he has been a member of the Colorado All-State Band for three years, Combined League Honor Jazz Band, and Honor Concert Band for three years, CU Honor Band for two years as well as a member this year of the prestigious Colorado Symphonic Band — an honor traditionally reserved for students from large 5A and 4A high schools.
All of his accomplishments playing percussion — including both a traditional drum set as well as the marimba, an instrument similar to the xylophone that is arranged like keys of a piano only composed of wood and struck with a mallet — has garnered state-wide attention for Sevy. Sevy has received scholarship offers from Denver University, Colorado State University and Northern Colorado University; however, it was a recent full-tuition scholarship from the University of Colorado that Sevy really anticipated and thus he will attend campus in Boulder next year as a double major in classical percussion performance and jazz percussion performance.
Interestingly enough, Sevy got into percussion through trial and error. Since his older brother, Benjamin is also on scholarship at CU-Boulder playing saxophone — John did not want to imitate his brother and therefore found comfort playing percussion.
“I tried to sing in sixth grade in choir and I really hated it, so the other thing they had was percussion and it turned out I really liked it,” he explained.
While John’s parents Pete and Suzanne both played musical instruments in band growing up, and music has always been a part of the long-time Berthoud family, the two now work in the health-care industry and Suzanne admitted they were never even close to the level of their two boys.
“When he first started playing drums and doing percussion he had a drive to be good, and be one of the best,” she said. “That has really motivated him all the way through. I’ve never had to tell him to practice. I’ve never had to tell him to go study or do your homework. He really is self-motivated.”
Sevy’s own enthusiasm and personal interest in percussion has taken the family all around the state where he must audition for every honor band in classical and jazz performance he seeks. Additionally, he has visited several colleges, including frequent trips to the Denver School of Arts for inspiration — absorbing as much about music as possible, since Berthoud is fairly limited in terms of the arts.
“He is pretty much all music all the time,” Suzanne noted. “He has other interests, but not to the same degree. He really is heavily focused on the music.”
While parents generally want their children to pursue a variety of interests when they are young, including learning to play a musical instrument, Suzanne confessed she never had an issue with John picking up drums — notorious for all the noise they produce. “It didn’t bother me. I wanted my kids to play a musical instrument and play what they wanted to play. To be honest, we didn’t have a lot of that banging around because he was always so focused, and even when he did it has actually been a lot of fun seeing how much he’s improved over the years.”
The Sevys have transformed an entire living area into a music room in order to accommodate John’s intense practice schedule that includes hours a day either at the house or at the high school where John said, “I practice on every off hour, including lunch and after-school.”
“John is a model student,” Rick Grotzky, the BHS band director remarked. “He is not only incredibly talented and a very hard worker, he also exhibits a strong sense of leadership and servitude among his section and the band in general. Musically John is very talented. He has a real ambition to continuously work to improve and is never one to rest on his laurels. As a person, he is kind, humble, helpful and sincere. His character is always of the highest caliber.”
For the Colorado All-State Band, Sevy auditioned with thousands of other students spread across the state that eventually were narrowed down to, 200 kids that make two bands of 100. Impressive in itself, being all-state for three years doesn’t quite stack up to being a first-year member of the Colorado Symphonic Band and two-year honoree of the CU Honor Band.
“It is a lot of fun,” Sevy commented regarding the Symphonic Band. “There are more advanced players in that band. It’s more for the larger schools — the 5A and 4A schools, but they will sometimes take kids from the smaller schools when deemed appropriate.”
While the Colorado Symphonic Band may be Sevy’s most prestigious honor to-date, he said being a part of the CU Honor Band (that consists of a little over 100 members) has been his favorite: “We played a very high level of music that the college symphonic band plays. We were playing college-level music. We had a very strict conductor from Michigan who was very high maintenance for us. We had to make him happy.”
Part of the reason Sevy (who considers John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley as primary musical influences) hoped to receive a full-ride scholarship from CU-Boulder compared to other in-state institutions was because the percussion professor is a “world-renowned player,” according to Sevy.
When asked where he sees himself in five years, Sevy plans to have completed his double major as an undergraduate before “then pursuing a master’s, hopefully in another state.” Though becoming a professional musician, who tours the world, is certainly not out of the question, Sevy revealed if he could be doing anything after school he would actually like to teach at a four-year college as a music professor. Sevy has been heavily inspired by Grotzky — now in his third year at the school — as well as his own mother who, in addition to being a nurse, teaches at Front Range Community College.
“Mr. Grotzky has been a great addition to Berthoud High School and the music program, and I think more people in the community should support it because we don’t get much support. He really showed me what a good teacher is supposed to be,” he praised.
“To be even mentioned by John as an inspiration is more honor than I deserve,” Grotzky gushed. “So much of what John has accomplished has come via his own desire and passion, his unwavering support from his family and from his private teachers that have guided him. I believe John would be a talented teacher because he puts his mind to it and finds ways to succeed, and also learns from his mistakes.”
Updates regarding Sevy appear to come on a monthly, if not weekly, basis these days. He recently won the Denver Concert Band Young Artist competition with a prize that included a $2,000 scholarship, as well as being the featured concerto soloist at an upcoming Mother’s Day performance at Lone Tree Arts Center.
When asked to complete the sentence, “Music is … ” John did not hesitate: “Music is the international language that I think everyone should have a basic knowledge of.”
And it’s a language he speaks very well.
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