GENEVA – Brandon Cantwell started off in music playing drums at 10. But the Geneva High School senior’s household already had a drummer – his dad, Tom Cantwell.
“My father persuaded me to play bass to complete the band,” Cantwell said. “My brother plays guitar. I come from a musical family – my older brother Tom is a junior at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.”
The Kane County Chronicle this week is highlighting local high school seniors as graduation season nears. When his teacher, Julie Lawrence, nominated Cantwell to be a featured Geneva graduate, she described him as “a phenomenal jazz and classical bassist.”
“He is a quiet and unassuming young man, but his musical accomplishments speak for themselves,” Lawrence said. “He is also just a really decent, nice kid.”
Cantwell, 18, was named All-State Jazz Combo this year by the Illinois Music Educators Association, recognition for student musicians in a state-wide competition. Geneva School District 304 honored him with a Tradition of Excellence Award in March.
As part of the competition, Cantwell played in a group of nine other music students from around the state in an Honors Jazz Combo Band.
“He is the top Illinois jazz bass player in Illinois,” said his mother, Nancy Cantwell, explaining what the award means. “Those are the nine best kids on their instruments in the entire state of Illinois.”
Cantwell will graduate May 26 and attend the University of Illinois majoring in jazz studies. But he is accomplished in both jazz and classical.
“When you’re learning how to play, you play classical music, and then they introduce you to jazz,” Cantwell said. “I became more fond of playing jazz music. It’s hard to be good at two different things, and I had to pick one, so I have chosen jazz.”
Cantwell plays recreational sports with friends, but much of his free time is spent on music. Last year, his band Fargo won the Swedish Days Battle of the Bands competition, then performed at the Paul Ruby Foundation for Parkinson’s Concert for a Cure fundraiser.
“I hope to perform at Concert for a Cure again this year, but not at Battle of the Bands,” Cantwell said.
A member of the International Honor Society, he participates in other charity functions, such as LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva. He is also part of the Midwest Young Artists, a premier youth music ensemble program in Highwood, his mother said, and they also play at charity events.
After college, Cantwell said he hopes to start his career as a professional musician and possibly travel in a group of collaborative musicians.
“I hope to have a musical statement, an impact on the way people think about music,” Cantwell said. “Then at some point, go back to school and get more education so I can teach as a professor. That would be cool. … I am open to see where music takes me.”