Hillsborough teen chosen to play at Grammy events in Los Angeles

Griffin Ross in a photo by CBS North Carolina

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Grammy Awards air on CBS North Carolina Sunday night, but a Hillsborough teenager will be watching from the audience in Los Angeles.

Griffin Ross, 17, is among the select few chosen to participate in Grammy Camp – Jazz Session.

Watch on CBS North Carolina: The Grammy Awards starts at 7:30 p.m. Sunday with a red carpet show

The Cedar Ridge High School student’s talents struck a chord with the Grammy Foundation, which chose him as one of 32 high schoolers from across the U.S. to participate.

They’ll record an album, play at various Grammy events, attend the awards and perform at the after-party.

“It was just all the greatest feelings you could imagine. A lot of relief too. You just feel like, ‘Wow. I finally made something that I’m really, really proud of’,” he said.

Out of all he will see and do, Ross is most excited about “playing with people, man.”

Despite the competition to snag a seat, there’s something harmonious about their comradery.

“It’s not what you think. It’s not like I’m trying to go there, I’m looking at him, trying to cut him. I’m going to try to cut him but we’re bros afterwards,” he said.

Ross’ audition landed him one of the two tenor saxophone spots.

This is the high note in his seven-year music career and is a goal he reached for last year.

“Especially to have so many roadblocks and have so many times be told ‘no.’ It’s easy to just give up and be like, ‘it’s too hard.’ It just propelled him to work harder,” said Josh Cvijanovic, director of bands at Cedar Ridge High.

Ross’ mother said among her sons’ other recent honors: he’s been selected as first chair tenor saxophone for Jazz Band of America and was selected as a YoungArts winner. In addition to those awards and participating in various ensembles, he’s also formed a band of his own.

“You don’t have to be the best at it, but the fact that you took the time to learn it, really learn it and check it out, there’s a sense of pride. I mean, this teaches you everything about life when you learn music.” Griffin Ross said.

That spirit could continue his crescendo of success.

“He’s got that sort of drive that I think he’s just going to keep pushing and pushing and pushing until there’s really no where left to go,” Cvijanovic said.

His director of bands said Ross’ solo act makes the Cedar Ridge bands better.

“He gets them listening to things differently and he gets them interpreting things differently and thinking about things differently,” Cvijanovic said

The Cedar Ridge bands are making their mark and currently fundraising for an upcoming jazz band competition and workshop.

Ross said he would like to be an advocate for the arts, which he said can “change people.”

His passion is obvious when he talks about jazz.

“You’ve got to deal with all sorts of emotions. There’s romance involved. There’s like bare, human nature involved with this stuff,” Ross said, comparing jazz performance with democracy.

“When you play jazz music, you have all the responsibilities of being a citizen. That’s what jazz music teaches you – how to be a good citizen. When you’re in a jazz band, it’s about a soloist. There’s individuality.”

His passion is paying off for his own career, but also for music programs at Cedar Ridge and throughout the state, according to Cvijanovic.

“This is going to help, hopefully, help people see that we mean business when it comes to music education and jazz education in North Carolina because people like Griffin are getting out there and making a name for themselves,” Cvijanovic said.

Ross is hoping the 10-day trip to the Grammys will be an opportunity that could lead to a scholarship to attend college in New York City.

The students selected for the Grammy camp jazz session are eligible for more than $2 million in college scholarships.

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