A Braden River Middle School project on famous drummer Buddy Rich turns into a live gig for the 12-year-old.
Twelve-year-old Jack Fletcher wasn't just sitting in any chair.
When the Braden River seventh-grader was allowed to perform with the Sarasota Jazz Project for one song during a Nov. 30 performance at the Sarasota Farmers Market, he was replacing drummer Greg Caputo.
Caputo has worked with Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Nelson Riddle, Benny Goodman and many other of music's all-time jazz greats.
"I am a little bit nervous," Fletcher said as Caputo stood up and moved out of his way, allowing the youngster to sit behind his drums.
After sitting down and being introduced to the crowd, Fletcher certainly didn't appear nervous. The band launched into the Jazz classic "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,"
Caputo had listened to Fletcher in a few rehearsals and during his drumming at the farmers market
"He's got a lot of promise," Caputo said.
Fletcher's appearance was sparked by a school project. The STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) program at Braden River Middle requires students complete a science fair project. Fletcher's parents, Renee´ and Wyatt Fletcher, asked the school if their son could do an alternative to the science project. Principal Kimberly Zenon-Richardson agreed to let Jack Fletcher do a project focusing on famous drummer Buddy Rich, learning his style while doing research on jazz.
As part of the project, Fletcher had to practice with a local jazz band and then videotape a live performance. Wyatt Fletcher taped "Mercy, Mercy. Mercy" at the farmers market.
The Fletchers, who live in Palm Aire, discovered the Sarasota Jazz Project has performed a Buddy Rich tribute, so they went to Director George McLain and asked if the Sarasota Jazz Project, which is a performance group of the Sarasota Jazz Club, would allow him to join for a song.
"We have enjoyed working with him," said Sarasota Jazz Project Director George McLain. "The Sarasota Jazz Club nurtures emerging youth and he wanted to learn a Buddy Rich arrangement, so he came to our rehearsals."
Renee´ Fletcher said McLain went out of his way to help.
"It has been an incredible experience for Jack," she said.
Jack Fletcher enjoyed watching Caputo and said he received a few tips from the veteran drummer. However, he might have learned more just from watching Caputo's technique.
"Getting as much experience as you can get, that's where it is at," Wyatt Fletcher said.
Wyatt Fletcher said he was grateful Brandon River Middle allowed his son to do a music-related project because music is every bit as important as science, math and literature.
"There is nothing more universally human than artistic pursuits," Wyatt Fletcher said. "The arts create."
Besides the drums, Jack Fletcher has played the violin in the Sarasota Youth Orchestra and currently plays the trumpet and bass guitar. He was selected to the Florida All State Middle School Band this year and also received all-star honors in Orchestra.
"That's my passion," Jack Fletcher said. "It's what I want to do. Music is part of my life and I guess it is a great thing to be able to do your favorite thing all the time."
His dad, who is a cellist, and his mom, who plays the viola, understand a music career can be a tough choice, especially for a 12-year-old who already is playing in a rock band.
"We're pushing this as a discipline ... learning the music and learning the history as opposed to the temptations of the lifestyle," Wyatt Fletcher said.
Renee´ Fletcher summed it up by saying, "He needs to be happy and this makes him happy."