Montclair Teen Heads to GRAMMYs

Friday, Jan 29, 2010 11:00am  |  COMMENTS (9)

Watching the GRAMMYs this Sunday? Montclair High School Senior Robin Baytas will be all eyes. But he’ll see rock stars from inside the Los Angeles Convention Center. Robin was selected for the highly competitive GRAMMY Jazz Ensemble. Not only did he score an all-expenses-paid, week-long trip to California, he also gets to perform on awards night, record a CD and put his name in for college scholarships.

He’s been playing the drums since he was 7, starting on African drums with bassist Reggie Workman and his wife Maya. Today, at 17, he’s been involved with NJPAC’s Jazz for Teens, the Litchfield Jazz Camp and MSU’s Jazz Connections Summer Program. He has performed with pros like Claudio Roditi, Mark Whitfield and Wycliffe Gordon, and Robin regularly does gigs around New Jersey and New York.
About the GRAMMYs, he added, “In my never-ending quest to better myself as a musician, winning this award will help me tremendously, and it is more than I could ever ask for,” he said.

He’s psyched to meet the country’s hottest musicians. To sweeten the prize, he headed to LA with his drummer pal, junior Evan Sherman from Millburn High School who was also accepted. “This is such a privilege, and I am immensely thankful for it,” Robin said.
See him playing Hello Dolly in Queens last year, below.


  1. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 29, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    This article says, “Montclair High School Senior…”
    Surely, he went to a private school and not our horrible public school.
    I await the correction.

  2. POSTED BY KatebirdRex  |  January 29, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

    Wow. Congrats, Robin. I am truly impressed by the way those kids play in the video. Playing jazz well is even harder than it sounds. It requires technical skill, extensive theoretical knowledge, ability to compose on the fly, and–oh yeah–creativity and swing.
    Did I mention that it’s hard?
    It’s awesome to hear kids this age playing so well. Keep up the good work!

  3. POSTED BY tudlow  |  January 29, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    Dig it, that is so cool. Take five and check out that sweet tune. Loved the drum solo–the next Joe Morello
    So much talent.
    Congratulations to Robin!

  4. POSTED BY walleroo  |  January 30, 2010 @ 8:22 am

    This kid may attend the public schools, prof, but he obviously learned his music elsewhere. Those African drumming lessons from Reggie Workman weren’t held at Hillside, they were private. I’m sure there were many private piano lessons over the years that weren’t mentioned above. And that list of programs he was involved in? Private, private, private.

  5. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  January 30, 2010 @ 10:48 am

    But still, why oh why would his parents subject him to our terrible HS if he was so special?
    And if you are right, Mr. Roo, then they know the benefits of a private far outweigh our horrible, terrible (Ivy League and Rhodes Scholar producin’) public school….
    Just sayin’.

  6. POSTED BY gail930  |  January 30, 2010 @ 11:01 am

    Congratulations to Robin!
    Walleroo makes a good point. Robin and other MHS students who excel in music do so because of years of private lessons. In fact, the instrumental music program at the HS does little to support promising young musicians. Few students participate in regional auditions; the two HS students who made it into All-State Orchestra (quite an accomplishment, btw) did so because of their parents, and again, many outside private lessons. Many students don’t participate in the instrumental program at the HS, because of the marching band requirement (few high schools do this), though this may be changing, due to the District’s actions as a result of a group of parents who have brought this to their attention.
    FAME (Friends and Advocates of Music Education), of which I am a founding member, has advocated for a stronger music program, for the past several years. The additional instrumental teacher at he elementary school level, who has been very well-received, was hired because of FAME’s efforts.
    It’s interesting to note that the wonderful and often-highlighted Jazz House Kids and Passing Notes are musical programs/groups which formed outside the public schools or as a student-run endeavor, respectively.
    A quality music program, taught by highly certified music teachers, is critical in developing and inspiring young musicians. All students should have this opportunity.
    You may recall the piece here about the new Cali School of Music and it’s Director, Bob Aldridge.
    He noted that the MSU President treats the music program like most presidents treat their football teams. Hip hip hooray!
    Support music and the arts in our schools, and again, congratulations to Robin on his achievement!
    Gail Prusslin

  7. POSTED BY tudlow  |  January 30, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    It seems that any student that excels in music to this degree does so by private lessons and much practice whether they attend public school or private school. (Except for those kids in “Fame.”)
    I agree, though, that the marching band requirement is dumb. I was in symphonic band in HS and didn’t participate in marching band. The band director yelled at me and asked me if I thought I was too much of a prima donna to wear the silly hat. What could I say. (Not that there is anything wrong with the marching band–just isn’t everybody’s interest and it interferes with sports.)
    Thanks for your efforts, Gail. How exactly does one support your FAME organization?

  8. POSTED BY gail930  |  January 31, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

    Sure, most students who excel in the arts take private lessons outside school for years and have supportive parents who can get them to lessons (and pay for them).
    However, there is much more that our schools can be doing to nurture and support young musicians, especially those with the potential to excel and whose parents can’t afford private lessons.
    Thank you for your interest in supporting FAME. We are not a fundraising group, but seek to affect change in the music program more in terms of programming and curriculum. Our goals include:
    • Promoting a culture of excellence and excitement in music education in our schools; ensuring that music instruction is delivered by NJ State certified, highly-qualified teachers at all school levels.
    • Increasing ensemble opportunities for Montclair students at all levels of musical achievement in the schools, and offering increased opportunities for musical exposure and excellence. Student musicians should have ensembles that offer them the opportunity to play more advanced and challenging music. Currently, there is only one level of band and orchestra at the hs.
    • Encouraging and supporting student musical involvement beyond Montclair and through participation in regional and all-state ensembles, festivals, and competitions. Most schools send many students to regional auditions; we do not.
    • Providing students with equivalent levels of instruction and opportunities that are afforded to students of comparable districts.
    Promoting a culture of excellence and excitement in music education in our schools is our aim. We have had some impact but there is much more to be done.
    Anyone interested in supporting these efforts should talk to school administrators about the importance of a quality music education. Also, feel free to contact me to get on our e-mail list for meetings and other information on how you can help.
    Gail Prusslin
    P.S. Glad to hear you were still allowed to be in symphonic band at your school. You’re right – marching band isn’t for everyone, not just because of the silly hats.

  9. POSTED BY KatebirdRex  |  February 01, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

    I went to public school in central NJ where we also were not allowed to be in the symphonic band unless we were in marching band (like Montclair, apparently).
    Although my life centered around studying and playing music during those years, I was unable to participate in my own school’s instrumental music program because the marching band schedule was so burdensome. It’s a real shame when schools seem to view their music programs as existing to support their sports teams (when those teams are already getting so many resources to start with).
    It’s true that the vast majority of kids who attain the highest levels of musical achievement can do so only through the use of many, many outside resources–and usually a large investment of time and money by the child’s family or other supporter. I was incredibly lucky that music was an important part of my parents’ value system and that they had resources they were willing to invest in my development when I was in high school.
    Organizations like Gail’s FAME group or Jazz House Kids and the few schools that commit to putting real resources behind their music programs give more kids a chance to discover what they can achieve if they’re willing to work for it. Whether they continue with careers in music or not, that is a lesson that pays dividends for life.

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