Tooting his own horn: Upper seventh grader earns first chair in regional band

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UPPER TOWNSHIP – A local seventh grader bested nearly 50 competitors to secure the first chair for trumpet in an eight county regional band. 


Erik Larson, of Seaville, aced his January audition to earn the top spot.

“I was nervous,” said Larson, an honors students and avid lacrosse player. “I had a prepared piece and had to do sight read and do scales as well.”

Larson, first among the nearly two dozen trumpet players chosen for the regional program, has been in twice weekly rehearsals with fellow band members in preparation for a March 3 concert at the Fernwood Middle School in Egg Harbor Township. 

The band is sponsored by the South Jersey Band and Orchestra Directors Association, which has been putting together the local musical all-stars since 1947. The junior high school component of the program was added in the mid-1970’s, with the inaugural All South Jersey Junior High Band concert in 1978.  

“This will really help him take his playing up another notch,” said Sue Kosturko, the middle school’s music teacher. “It’s really a big deal. I cannot remember the last time we placed a student on the regional band, never mind having a musician in the top spot for his instrument.”

Larson said that he spent about three months learning “Petit Piece Concertante” by French composer Guillaume Balay – the required audition music.

“They had me play several sections, instead of the piece all way through. I felt like I did well in the sight reading as well.”

He began playing in the fifth grade, at Upper Township Elementary School.

“Erik heard the pitch the music program makes to fifth graders and chose the trumpet,” said Karen Larson, his mother.  “I didn’t want to rent, so I bought an used trumpet. I think he felt obligated to stick with it since I bought, so that worked out well.

“Erik’s done very well with Mr. (Stephen) Skiscim, the band director – but he was the one that told us to get Erik private instruction as well.”

Skiscim teaches band to the school district’s fifth through eighth graders. Kosturko handles the district’s choral program in addition to her teaching assignment. Teacher Amy Lord handles all of the music classes in the primary and elementary schools.  

“The band program provides great exposure to playing,” said Kosturko, “but to move to this level, most kids are receiving private lessons as well.”

Larson studies with David Seals, the band director and music teacher at the Emma C. Attales School in Absecon.  

Just two years into his music career, and with a little over a year of private lessons with Seals, the seventh grader is playing at a high level.

“The school district is very proud of him. He’s a great representative of our program,” she said. 

“It takes quite a bit of time,” said his mother. “But he is meeting with a lot of success.”

With the spring lacrosse season about to get underway, Larson will get more exercise with his time management skills, as he juggles rehearsals, lessons and lacrosse practices through the spring, his mother said.

“Music is definitely as important as playing sports,” she said. “It rounds out the person.”

Larson will also attend a music program at Rutgers University this summer.  

“I was impressed when he chose the trumpet,” said Karen Larson. “He is kind of reserved kid, and the trumpet is a bold instrument – it is right out there. I am all about the music, his dad pushes sports, but we are both very proud of him.”

Larson’s father, Tim Larson, coaches him and many of his classmates in Upper’s youth lacrosse program.


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