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Pair of high schoolers from Bainbridge win big at state music competition

Nick Stahl and Zack Badzik stand with music instructor Dave Carson after winning their divisions at the Washington State Music Educators Association State Championship in Ellensburg. Stahl was tops in the soprano/alto sax division and Badzik took first in the tenor/baritone sax division.   - Photo courtesy of Darsi St. Louis
Nick Stahl and Zack Badzik stand with music instructor Dave Carson after winning their divisions at the Washington State Music Educators Association State Championship in Ellensburg. Stahl was tops in the soprano/alto sax division and Badzik took first in the tenor/baritone sax division.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Darsi St. Louis

This spring, local private saxophone instructor David Carson took two of his students to Central Washington University in Ellensburg to compete in the Washington Music Educators’ Association Solo and Ensemble Competition. There, his students won first place in the state for solo alto and tenor saxophone.

Nick Stahl, a sophomore at Bainbridge Island High and member of the National Honors Society, placed first in the alto saxophone competition along with Zack Badzik, a senior at Roosevelt High and a Bainbridge resident, who placed first in the tenor saxophone division.

For his performance, Badzik chose Eugene Bozza’s “Improvisation and Caprice”—a piece Carson compared to “Flight of the Bumblebee” in speed and flourish.

In a post-performance note, one of Badzik’s judges, who were chosen from a pool of musicians with degrees in music performance, remarked that even he probably wouldn’t have tried to play the piece as fast as Badzik had.

“I felt sorry for the girl that had to follow you,” Stahl said to Badzik. “After you were done, she was shaking her head like she didn’t have a chance.”

Badzik’s ambition paid off when he was announced the first-place winner for tenor saxophone. “As soon as they started saying a name with a Z, I was like ‘what?’,” Badzik said.

Stahl chose “Sonata Opus 19” by Paul Creston for his winning performance.

After a less impressive round on the tenor saxophone, Stahl got it together for the alto saxophone, managing to get top marks from all three judges observing him.

“I was stressed out and nervous the week before, but when I got there I wasn’t nervous because, you know, I was there, and it was going to go however it was going to go,” Stahl said.

For his alto saxophone division, he learned ahead of time that he had placed in the top three, so the suspense of the moment came with the ascending announcement of the winners.

“When they announced third, I was like ‘I got second!’ And when they announced the second-place winner, I was shocked.”

Carson stressed the value of their tenacious practice. He had spent four years preparing them for winning the state competition, and Stahl and Badzik have played saxophone for six and eight years respectively. Carson has consistently brought third-place winners to the competition since 2008, but Stahl and Badzik are his first students to win first place since 2004. Though, regardless of competition victories, Carson’s students have won in more practical ways by collectively winning more than $300,000 in music scholarships over the past eight years.

Badzik doesn’t plan to study music when he begins college next fall, but he plans to continue playing saxophone on the side of his studies and professional life. His lessons with Carson and experience at the competition have inspired him to pursue jazz saxophone from now on.

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