Kenai Central High School senior Raleigh Van Natta was named to the 2017-2018 All National Concert Band, sponsored by the National Association for Music Educators, and is seen here in Orland, Fl. representing Alaska as the first chair alto saxophonist during the music festival in November 2017. (Photo courtesy of Sheree Efta)

Kenai Central High School senior Raleigh Van Natta was named to the 2017-2018 All National Concert Band, sponsored by the National Association for Music Educators, and is seen here in Orland, Fl. representing Alaska as the first chair alto saxophonist during the music festival in November 2017. (Photo courtesy of Sheree Efta)

Local student musician takes 1st chair

The alto saxophone is just one of Raleigh Van Natta’s musical aptitudes — a versatile instrument for a versatile student.

At the end of 2017, Van Natta was named to the 2017-2018 All National Concert Band, sponsored by the National Association for Music Educators, as the only band student representative from Alaska.

Van Natta, a senior at Kenai Central High School, travelled to Orlando, Fl. and sat first chair during a three day festival that brought together the top student musicians from across the country to perform in concert band, orchestra, choir and jazz band.

“I was very proud, humbled just to have that chance. I didn’t get their on my own,” he said. “It was with help from a lot of teachers and encouragement from parents.”

The trip was Van Natta’s second time at the conference, but his first time in the first chair, a spot often reserved for the best player of a particular section.

“The first year I went, I was fifth chair and I looked up to the other players, learning from them,” Van Natta said. “It was a great feeling to return as first chair and know that I was in that role, that people looked up to me, and I had to work to make sure the saxophone section worked as one.”

Van Natta has been playing the saxophone for seven years and is constantly impressed with the versatility of the instrument.

“It’s one of the only instruments that can be used for jazz, classical pieces, rock and pop,” Van Natta said. “It’s and exciting instrument to play, very fulfilling.”

In addition to the alto saxophone, Van Natta plays the oboe and piano. He also plays with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and participates in the Kenai Central High School band and choir. This weekend he’ll be starring as Mr. Grasshopper in the high school’s musical rendition of ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ Music and performing play an important part in Van Natta’s life.

“I feel like I’m bad at using my words,” he said. “It’s a more efficient way of communication. You can communicate your feelings or emotions much better with music.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

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