P O W E L L, W y o. - Greybull High School graduate Dillon Brannock is ending his freshman year at Northwest College on a high note - the young saxophonist was named one of the outstanding college/university jazz soloists for his performance with the NWC Jazz Band at the Greeley Jazz Festival in April.
According to Neil Hansen, director of bands at Northwest College, "It's quite a feat for a freshman to be selected for this honor, but even more impressive in light of the competition - we were the only community college band competing with a host of university ensembles during our day-long adjudication session."
The Greeley Jazz Festival is the largest of its kind in the nation. This year, over 250 ensembles traveled from Washington, Texas, Utah, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas to perform for adjudicators.
The Northwest Jazz Band as an ensemble received superior (the highest achievable) and excellent ratings for its performance at the festival sponsored by the University of Northern Colorado. Hansen credits Brannock's performance as a significant contributing factor to those high ratings.
"Dillon has been one of the hardest working students here at Northwest this year," Hansen said. "He came in with little formal training compared to many students (he only started playing saxophone a couple of years ago) but has been self motivated in his quest for musical excellence."
According to Hansen, Brannock's saxophone strains are a familiar echo in the hallways of the Nelson Performing Arts Center on campus. "We can hear him any time of the day practicing his saxophones," Hansen said. "In the music the jazz band played at Greeley, he was featured on tenor sax, soprano sax and alto sax. He gives them all lots of practice time. His soprano solo is what earned him the outstanding musician award."
While most students who enter Northwest's music program usually have six or more years of training under their belt, Brannock only started playing the saxophone his senior year of high school. He filled in the gaps with plenty of practice and outside "gigs." Hansen predicts Brannock's work ethic and talent has him on the right track to succeed in the music business.
In addition to the jazz band, Brannock also plays in the NWC Wind Band and Tuesday Jazz Combo. Greybull area residents recognize him from performances with his hometown group, the Cosmic Connection. The hard-to-categorize group features Brannock and his fellow Greybull musicians Caleb Van Gelder on drums, Caleb Mattis on bass and Shawn Kebler on guitar. The four have performed regularly at the Big Horn Ski Resort and twice at the Basin Arts Center.
Hansen said he looks forward to working with Brannock next year, but right now the young saxophonist has his eyes set on some serious summer time in Brazil where he wants to "get with that scene down there," playing in a reggae band and hitting plenty of jazz pubs.
Brannock is the son of Teri and Steve Drake of Greybull.