Music, track in sync

Wednesday, February 24 2010 - Friday Night Special


By: Kevin Murphy/Staff Reporter

Eastern senior Brandon Jelks can make sweet music.

Jelks can do it as a sprinter on the men's track team or as a member of the Eastern Jazz Ensemble.

He finally broke the seven-second barrier this season in the 60-meter dash by finishing eighth in 6.97 seconds at the Friday Night Special at Lantz Field House.

He also finished in 14th place in 23.08 seconds in the 200-meter dash.

Jelks has tried to create a flow and balance between track and playing with Eastern's jazz groups.

He'll be the first to admit that it's not easy.

There are the long days that consist of classes, track practice and jazz practice.

"It's pretty much the same type of deal," Jelks said. "You got your good days and your bad days when you perform. It's tough to be a music (education) major and an athlete."

Jelks loves both and more power to him for investing his time to be really good at both.

It's rare these days to find someone who is talented and committed enough to balance these skills.

But for Jelks, jazz and track is something he loves and nothing stops him from trying to do both. He's loved jazz for almost all of his life. Track is a fairly new addition but still another passion.

"In high school I was a really good athlete," he said. " I always just loved track to go out and there see things. As a musician, I toured in Europe for two weeks as a singer in a group. Both of them open up opportunities for you. And I just love that."

Jelks is fervent about the music almost much as his sport. He enjoys music and first embraced it in his church.

"I love it," he said. "(My grandmother) pretty much taught me everything I know. I pretty much play all the instruments I can get my hands on still. I love jazz."

He's played since high school but mainly plays alto saxophone since coming to Eastern. He will be performing at 7:30 p.m. tonight with Eastern's three jazz combos.

The concert will include performances by Eastern's three jazz combos with classic jazz selections, along with new compositions and arrangements. It will take place in the Room 1360 of the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

Sam Fagaly, professor of saxophone and director of the jazz studies program, said Jelks has had to work through the ranks of jazz. Jelks didn't switch his major until after his freshman year.

"He works very hard," Fagaly said. "It's very demanding. The fact that he's hung in is something a lot of students wouldn't be able to do. I don't think I could've done it at his age."

He's progressed from the Jazz Lab Band to the Jazz Ensemble and is second chair at alto saxophone this year.

Fagaly said Jelks would have a good shot at first alto saxophone next year during auditions.

As a sprinter, he's also had to work through the ranks.

As a freshman he wasn't at the top, he participated in the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships, but only in the long jump. He was a walk-on.

As a sophomore he participated in both the indoor and outdoor conference championships.

As a junior, he helped the 400-meter relay team capture the conference championship. He also posted the 10th-best time in program history in the 100-meter dash at last season's outdoor conference championships.

On Friday night, the biggest smiles came across his face after he saw his times posted after his races.

Eastern head track coach Tom Akers jokingly told Jelks that he waits until now to post his best times in the last home meet of the season.

"That's my final (60-meter) ever," Jelks said. "It was rough because they had a false start. And then they had a gun that didn't go off, and we had to get back into the blocks. I was kind of nervous but I put it all together, but I PR'ed. It feels great. I appreciate it."

"I know what it's like to be in the behind. I really appreciate the good times because I've been through the bad times. I put my all into it. If it happens it happens."

Kevin Murphy can be reached at 58107944 or kjmurphy@eiu.edu.
Copyright 2010 The Daily Eastern News

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