Eight years ago, Chris Tam picked up the bass trombone on a whim. Today, the Illinois Music Education Association has named him part of the 2018 Illinois All-State Band. He’s the first Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) student to ever earn this distinction. 

Tam, 15, found out in January that he would be part of All-State, a band comprised of about 600 of the most talented musical students across Illinois. A spokesman for Proviso said she believes there were about 15 bass trombonists selected in Illinois. Bass trombonists auditioned by playing two concert etudes for judges.

“It was my first year auditioning for the whole process,” Tam said. “I was like, ‘I may as well just have fun in district band while I’m here,’ and then I made All-State. I’m surprised, I don’t think the realization’s hit me yet.”   

Tam took up the trombone after years of playing the piano, picking up the heavy brass instrument because he wanted to join the band at Westchester Intermediate School. He chose the bass trombone because a friend of his did at the time, started practicing and, after a few weeks of sliding the instrument, realized he wasn’t half bad.  

“I realized, ‘Wow, this is really interesting and cool,’ and I decided to practice more,” he said. 

Tam started getting more interested in the potential of the trombone, listening to people playing it professionally, going to see concerts and taking private lessons.

His work led him earlier in the year making the Illinois First District Band, which includes all the best student musicians in the area.  After performing at Elmhurst College in late 2017, PMSA band director Steven Goodman told him about All-State.

“At Proviso, no one was ever interested in auditioning for All-State, but that was my jumpstart, it’s a really great springboard,” Goodman said, reflecting on his own musical career. Tam’s “involved in everything you could possibly want to be in—the Merit School of Music, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Chris getting involved really has a lot to do with why he was chosen.” 

Tam was chosen from the about 1,200 people who auditioned, and performed with the All-State Band in late January in Peoria. Eventually, he dreams of pursuing a career in music. 

Attend a free performance of Tam soloing at 7 p.m. on April 27 at the nonprofit Merit School of Music, 38 S. Peoria St. 

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com