Tuned In to Win

Senior Saxophonist Speaks About Accomplishments, Future in Computer Science


Photo by America Lara

Playing his saxophone, senior Jacob Cohen performs at one of the outdoor pep rallies. Cohen, who has been playing the saxophone since middle school, was named co-grand champion for Cedar Park’s soloist competition this year. Although he will not be majoring in music at University of Texas at Austin, he said he still wants to pursue it. “I want to continue playing the saxophone because it’s always been a passion of mine,” Cohen said. “I’m excited to meet new people in the band world, [make] new relationships and [get] involved in the college band experience.”

Ally JohnPress, Editor-in-Chief

As the stage light centers, he adjusts his sheet music and lifts his instrument to his lips. He glances around at his fellow saxophone players and takes a deep breath before playing the starting note, and soon the auditorium is filled with the sounds of instruments. As he plays his concluding note, applause erupts from the audience. Senior Jacob Cohen smiles and bows for his final high school performance.

Instruments have been a part of Cohen’s life since second grade, and he has certainly made his musical mark. For three years in a row, Cohen has participated and made finals in the Cedar Park Young Artist Contest (CPYAC) solo competition, and this year, he was named co-grand champion.

“[Winning co-grand champion] was very rewarding because I’ve always worked very hard at that contest,” Cohen said. “Each year I’ve done slightly better than the last, so to finally be the winner my senior year was a very exciting accomplishment. I was thrilled because my seven years of hard work finally paid off. I’ve always worked really hard on the solo contest, so when they announced the names of the winners, I was in shock, but also relieved because I was wrapping up my band career.”

In addition to being named champion, Cohen has qualified for the All-State band for the past three years in a row.

“[All-State] was a great experience,” Cohen said. “It was really eye-opening. We got to see all kinds of good players from all over the state of Texas, and everyone was really great at their instrument. I met some great people, and I played some great music.” 

This year also marked the fourth time in a row the marching band has won the 5A UIL State Competition. 

“Being named back-to-back-to-back-back State champions was a great way to end the marching season,” Cohen said. “It’s not all about the results, but earning the trophy for the fourth time in a row was a very special moment, and we felt proud knowing we were carrying on the legacy of the Cedar Park band.”

Being a part of band, Cohen said he enjoys section parties during the summer and traveling for competitions. The band members also get to hang out with one another at hotels for competitions out of town, bus rides and football games.

“I like band because I like the thrill of performance and competitions,” Cohen said. “A lot of it is getting the result I want, too, but if I don’t, I still enjoy the journey of improving on my instrument. I also like the family [and] the built-in friends. It’s a close-knit community.”

In addition to performing at concerts or traveling for football games, the band also leads pep rallies where it plays school music and features individual instrument sections. Cohen performs saxophone solos as well to engage students.

“I think pep rallies are really fun,” Cohen said. “It’s a good way to get everyone hyped and excited, especially with the role that the band plays. We play metal shop, which gets everyone excited.”

Last November, the saxophone ensemble was invited to perform in Seattle, Washington, at the Western International Band Clinic.

“[Performing in Seattle] was really cool,” Cohen said. “We got to do some sightseeing and perform together. We visited an aquarium, the Seattle space needle, a glass museum, a pop culture museum and went to some good restaurants along with some rehearsals mixed in. On the last day, we had the big performance. It was exciting because the saxophone ensemble has never actually performed at an official event before, so this was the first time that we actually did. We played for a lot of students, band directors and other people at the convention. We rarely do performances out of state, so that was unique as well. [Performing] was nerve-wracking, but I was also comforted by the other saxophone players, because we were in it together.”

In elementary school, Cohen played the piano for four years before transitioning to the saxophone in middle school. 

“I always knew I wanted to be in band,” Cohen said. “One time, in fifth grade, the high school band came to my elementary school to play for us, and I was immediately intrigued by the saxophone players. They were playing really jazzy and cool music, so at that moment I knew I wanted to play the saxophone, so I chose it. I’ve played it ever since.”

Since his freshman year, Cohen has been involved in the Young Men’s Service League, a mother and son community service organization. The chapter meets every month and hosts service projects such as building ramps for those with wheelchairs or organizing food bank donations. 

“Sometimes the entire chapter does service projects, other times it is just my mom and I serving different philanthropies,” Cohen said. “One project I enjoyed was serving veterans through an organization called Heroes Night Out. I like giving back to the community and helping out. It’s good to know that I’m making a difference in other people’s lives. The Texas Ramp project was cool because we were working together, and I was able to see the immediate results of my actions. We were able to see the direct benefits of our service, which is why I liked it.”

Outside of school, Cohen is the fundraising director for Gear For Kids, an organization dedicated to helping children in the foster care system. The group, run by senior Jackson Streit, plans service projects or activities and fundraisers. 

“My job is to manage the fundraisers and work with the sponsors to do donation drives,” Cohen said. “I originally joined because of my friend Jackson, and I thought it would be a different type of community service. Jackson used to have two foster brothers, so his family was involved in the system, and I thought [joining this organization] would be a cool way to support my friend, the system and children that may be struggling.”

According to Cohen, his favorite event done by Gear For Kids was when they made pop-up birthday boxes. The decorated boxes, filled with gifts, snacks and party supplies, were given to kids in foster care.

“I enjoyed making the boxes because it was a good feeling to know that we were making a difference in a kids’ day, supporting the organization and spreading awareness about kids in the foster care system,” Cohen said. “My friends being there made it more enjoyable and more productive. Combining this Gear For Kids service project with National Honor Society was nice because there were people from both groups that were working together to help and support those in need.”

Cohen will be attending University of Texas at Austin in the fall and majoring in computer science. 

“I’ve always wanted to study computer science because I’ve always liked technology,” Cohen said. “I have always been obsessed with all kinds of technology, and now I’ll be able to apply it in broader ways. I’m leaving my options open, but I might study cybersecurity or software development. I don’t have too much experience, but it seems like a really exciting field to learn. I’m excited to pursue computer science because technology is growing very fast in today’s world, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”

Although he is not studying music, Cohen said he might play the saxophone for the Longhorn marching band or play with the non-major music saxophone ensemble or any concert bands open to non-music major students.

“I want to continue playing the saxophone because it’s always been a passion of mine,” Cohen said. “I don’t know exactly what I’ll be playing in or who I’ll be playing for, but I’m excited that UT has many opportunities for me to be a part of. I’m excited to meet new people in the band world and play with older people who I don’t know and who are more experienced than I am, and overall making new relationships and getting involved in the college band experience.”

According to Cohen, his senior year hasn’t been too stressful, and he is looking forward to the college experience.  

“It’s bittersweet because I’ve met so many people and made so many relationships [in high school],” Cohen said. “It’s a little sad that most of us are going to part ways, but it’s also exciting that I’m entering a new chapter in my life.”