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Six area high school students have been making a splash around town as Take 757, a jazz combo that performs old standards in restaurants, bars and other venues in the Historic Triangle.
Hamed Barbarji, a rising senior who previously attended Lafayette High School but will be transferring to the Governor’s Schools for the Arts in Norfolk, came up with the idea for the group with the help of Adam Davy, a recent Lafayette graduate who will attend Virginia Commonwealth University to study music in the fall.
Barbarji and Davy, already active in high school band, were looking for an additional outlet for their love of music – particularly jazz music – and decided to form a jazz combo with some like-minded, talented friends.
“There’s so much history to jazz. We could be playing pop music or in a classical chamber group, but we decided on jazz because there’s so much culture and history,” Barbarji said.
Barbarji, who plays the trumpet, and Davy, who plays the trombone, reached out to four friends they knew from school band and other community musical ensembles to round out the group.
Completing the lineup are Joshua “Snoop” Golub, a saxophone player and recent LHS graduate who will attend Longwood this fall; Eliza Geer, a jazz pianist and rising junior at Jamestown High School; Nicolas Geer, a drummer and rising junior at JHS; and Jesse Katz, a bassist and rising junior at LHS.
The first official gig for the ensemble was playing for a charity fundraiser at Beyond Bricks last December. Despite having to play for hours outside in the cold, the experience gave the group a taste for performing and inspired them to seek out more gigs.
“Josh [Golub] and I were talking after that, and we just decided we have to do something more,” Barbarji said. “One day we were playing at a private party and we just said ‘Hey, let’s record this.’ A few day later we went to the Greenleafe and sat down and played the recording for them and we ended up playing there every Friday night for most of the spring. That’s how we really started booking.”
Things quickly took off for Take 757, who have since performed at several 2nd Sunday festivals, Williamsburg Farmers Markets, “Music in the Garden” nights at the Williamsburg Botanical Gardens and local outdoor festivals in addition to restaurants all over town – most recently at the Triangle on Prince George Street on Thursday.
The group had to find ways to balance their busy gigging schedule, which usually includes at least one performance a week, with the regular responsibilities of being high school students.
“Music is definitely a priority for us,” said Eliza Geer of the group’s decision to give up what many would consider a “normal” high school social life in favor of taking gigs on weekend nights. “This is a big passion and what we plan on pursuing, so it’s worth it to make it work.”
Members of the group expressed it is all they can do to “strike a balance between music and academics,” which often means going straight from rehearsal into studying for the next day’s test and vice versa.
“I realized that I really had to still keep up with academics in order to be able to eventually get to a place where school was about studying what I love,” said Golub, who plans to pursue a degree in music education at Longwood.
Barbarji considered himself an athlete for the first several years of high school. He ran cross-county and played varsity soccer for Lafayette, but he describes his love for music as an abrupt awakening.
“After just one concert [with the Lafayette school band] – after the last note I played I walked backstage and decided this is what I want to do,” Barbarji said. “I don’t even want to play sports anymore.”
The group also said much of their social fulfillment comes from hanging out with one another, making it easier to feel like their social needs are being met while still working toward their goals.
“One thing that was really evident from the first day as a group is even if we don’t always agree about everything with our music, we’re friends outside of the group and definitely hang out together outside of playing,” Davy said.
As for how they have managed to make a name for themselves in the Historic Triangle and on the Peninsula in such a short time, the musicians agreed much of it has to do with the unexpected nature of what they are doing.
“I don’t think you’d expect kids our age to be playing jazz,” Eliza Greer said. “We wanted to keep the standards alive though.”
Eliza’s brother Nicolas, who is responsible for coming up with the name “Take 757” – a reference to the jazz classic “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck – echoed that sentiment.
“We all love jazz because we get to play the songs we want to play, and I think that shows through and catches people’s attention,” Nicolas Geer said.
Besides their obvious passion for jazz, all six musicians share a deep appreciation for the experiences they have had in WJCC school bands.
“We have all been involved in the school band programs,” Katz said. “That type of training – to read music and have that experience – has been such a great background, and we can’t give enough credit to our band instructors.”
The musicians are also quick to point out how the greater Williamsburg community has played a role in their success.
“We are so blessed and lucky to live in a city where the music scene is actually growing,” Barbarji said.
Katz also praised the support they have received from the Williamsburg community.
“The way the music scene in this area embraces young musicians has led to so many opportunities for us,” he said. “I think a group like this wouldn’t exist in a lot of other places.”
Though two of the members of Take 757 will be leaving for college soon, the group is confident they will all reunite and play together over school breaks. In the meantime, the four remaining members plan to continue to book gigs as a quartet and developing their musical chops.
“We all want to do something with music professionally,” Barbarji said. “There is no limit to our ambition.”