A new chapter begins

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© HAWKEYE Photo courtesy of Jacob Knight

Jacob Knight steals the show at Hot Java Cool Jazz with his surprise solo performance.

By Ritika Khanal, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Throughout his four years of high school, senior Jacob Knight had the opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people, participate in an MTHS theater production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and explore his creative side in the STEM program. After high school, Knight will attend the University of Washington, play in the Husky marching band and hopefully get into either mechanical or computer engineering. 

Every year, the MTHS jazz bands participate in the annual Hot Java Cool Jazz festival at the Paramount Theater in which the best jazz bands from all over the state come to play. The event is hosted by the Starbucks Coffee Company.

Knight has been attending the festival for three years, but this year was special for him. At this performance, Knight was featured in a song called “Feelin’ Good” and soloed in front of about 3,000 people.

“That was really frightening, but I tried to move past my fears, because I knew that once it was over, it was over, and there was nothing I could do to change it,” Knight said. 

Overcoming those fears was well worth it for Knight. He felt that the performance was a major highlight of his musical career.

“After the performance, I had a lot of people I had never met come up and tell me it moved them,” he said. “Just to know that something that I worked hard to produce moved people is just incredible.” 

At the final band concert of the year, Knight was voted most inspirational by his classmates and MTHS band director Darin Faul presented him with the John Philip Sousa Award. This award typically goes to seniors who demonstrate a particularly high degree of leadership in the band throughout the year.

In addition to performing at Hot Java Cool Jazz, Knight also traveled to New York City for two  Essentially Ellington jazz festivals. The Essentially Ellington festival, run by Jazz at Lincoln Center, is a festival in which the best high school jazz bands from around the country gather to play music, compete and learn  at one of the country’s most prolific jazz venues. 

Knight remembers the day his class found out they qualified for Essentially Ellington vividly. It was February 14, 2017, and he remembers his class playing poorly that day in preparation for that year’s Hot Java Cool Jazz. 

I just love performing. I love sharing performances that will hopefully bring up emotions in people, whether it’s sadness, excitement or whatever it may be.”

— Jacob Knight

“I thought our band director, Mr. Faul, was just really mad at us and he stormed off into his office,” Knight  said.

A few minutes later, however, Faul would give the class news that would turn the day around.They had made it  into essentially Ellington.

“All of us start yelling, some of us are crying and for the rest of the period, it was just a blast,” Knight recalled.

He described the experience at the festival as fantastical and exceeding his highest expectations. 

“Traveling around New York with friends and playing with the best jazz bands [from] across the country in a setting that had some of the best players from Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was absolutely magical,” Knight said. 

However, while he was traveling with the jazz band and playing music, Knight was also fighting with his own emotions. In the summer of 2017, he came out to his fellow students as being gay, but up until then, he tried convincing himself that wasn’t who he was.

“I was lying to myself about who I was, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it was really holding me back from finding peace with myself,” he said. 

Coming out wasn’t easy for Knight, and he was worried about how the community would react.    

“I was worried about people judging me and just choosing to not talk to me for that reason,” he said.

However, when he did come out, he didn’t have to face those fears. In fact, he found the MTHS community to be extremely accepting and supportive of his true identity.

“Coming out has helped me overall feel better and more whole, and I’ve been able to express my feelings with others a lot better,” he said.

His advice to anyone who may be in the position he was in before is, “It may be scary and uncomfortable to accept how you feel, but I believe that you’ll find that what’s more uncomfortable is denying it.”

Senior year brought many changes for Knight, including his first performance in a school theater production, the winter musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“I really like singing in the car, and then with ‘Little Shop,’ I found out it was really fun to sing for a purpose,” he said.

Acting has always been a slight passion for Knight, so after “Little Shop of Horrors” was over, when he was given an opportunity to audition for a production of “Into the Woods” with Renton Civic Theater over the summer, he swiftly took it.

Knight also has a technical side in his skillset. For his first two years of high school, Knight participated in the STEM program. 

“With other classes, you’re kind of going through the motions to make something that the teacher wants, but with my engineering classes it was really up to you to build something you wanted to build,” he said.

During his second year in the STEM program, Knight was introduced to coding, and chose to take a coding class at Edmonds Community College  as part of his full-time running start schedule in junior year to continue his education in the field. 

Knight initially became interested in STEM because of a sixth grade project. After completing  biographies about Bill Gates and Leonardo da Vinci, they became role models to Knight, and he was drawn to the STEM program. 

“Ever since then, I’ve just kind of been obsessed with them because they’re both incredible in their own regards, changing the world in STEM related ways,” Knight said.

Though he doesn’t know quite what he wants to do after high school, Knight knows that he wants to get into some sort of engineering field. He eventually hopes to get into  either mechanical or computer engineering.

In the meantime, however, he will continue his hobby of playing music. 

“I just love performing,” he said. “I love sharing performances that will hopefully bring up emotions in people, whether it’s sadness, excitement or whatever it may be.”