Senior Nick Kashka propped the music on his stand and adjusted his fingers on the smooth valves of the trumpet. Sitting in front of hundreds of faces at his East orchestra concert, Kashka was ready to begin a solo of his favorite classical piece, “Ireland.”
Kashka is used to being on stage with the lights in his face, doing his favorite thing: music. Music had been part of his life since he had grown up with three older siblings that all played a band instrument. Kashka’s oldest brother played the trumpet and inspired Kashka to follow in his footsteps. He joined the band and choir programs in high school, and his passion became his identity.
“Being a trumpet player has made me more social and expanded my limits to talk to people and work together in order to achieve goals,” Kashka said.
Kashka took up the trumpet in sixth grade and continued playing into middle school. In seventh grade, the timid 13-year-old auditioned to be a part of the Kansas City Youth Symphony. The selective ensemble is filled with talented high school musicians, but Kashka secured a spot in the trumpet section. Being a part of a program that required so much discipline and time changed his outlook on music. Kashka had never taken the trumpet too seriously, but began to appreciate the artistic aspects and began to work hard to improve.
“With the help of Kansas City Youth Symphony and the SME band program, I found my direction.” Kashka said. “My ambition and talent finally had a purpose.”
Kashka couldn’t wait to be a part of East’s band program once his siblings shared their memories of band. He enrolled in two band classes – symphonic band and marching.
“In the trumpet section I became far more comfortable and far less nervous about high school because of how welcoming they were and how close we became,” Kashka said.
Kashka has met his closest friends in the six years that he has been playing the trumpet in school. The band spends over two hours each day together. During the fall, it’s a 7 a.m. marching band roll call at the football field to practice for the halftime show. In class, they practice their jazz, classical and modern pieces. Sticking together through every early rehearsal and late concert is an aspect of band Kashka finds most important.
Senior Jake Lowe and Kashka sat next together in seventh grade band at Indian Hills Middle School, joking about their FACS class. The two shared the same interest in music with band and choir. Six years later, the best friends still are next to each other on the bus, marching on the field and rehearsing in the band room. They spend hours together both outside of school and during the day in orchestra and choir.
“When I met Nick, he was shy,” Lowe said. “But once he found his niche and comfort zone, he became sociable.”
Kashka’s confidence as a musician grew and contributed to his success at competitions. In November, band students competed at regionals for a chance to be a part of the 6A KMEA, or Kansas Music Educators Association, All-State band. After an audition against 200 others at regionals, he was one of 28 selected to perform a concert and then compete against other areas of Kansas. On Feb. 25, Kashka will compete against bands from western and midwestern Kansas at the Concert Hall in Wichita.
This year, Kashka finished most of his required classes early in order to have a schedule stacked with as many music-related courses. He has two periods for Blue Knights and Symphonic band, two periods for Chambers and Choraliers choir, plus a music theory class. Outside of school, he fills his time with private lessons and other small ensembles.
Kashka also found a way to incorporate his talent to benefit others: on Monday afternoons, sixth grade band students from elementary schools gather in the East band room for an honors program. The class is taught by band teachers from elementary schools in addition to East teacher Alex Toepfer. Kashka volunteers each week to help the students read their sheet music and practice songs.
“Helping the bands kids is a way to share music with others and show them what it can do,” Kashka said.
Kashka doesn’t mind getting up early or practicing because the high energy atmosphere with his friends make it the best part of his day. Kashka has become a leader in the trumpet section after four years at East. He sets an example for underclassmen to follow by encouraging and helping during class.
“He put in the time and it pays off,” Toepfer said. “He is a student that is the heart and soul of the band program,”
Kashka will continue on his musical career after he graduates. He has committed to the University of North Texas and will be participating in their world-renowned jazz school. While playing in the wind ensemble, Kashka wants to get a performance degree in music as well. His appreciation and passion for music will stay with him past college.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in, music can be appreciated by everyone – it’s a great equalizer,” Kashka said.