Gulliver Prep senior Dexter Callender is a music whiz. He's in both the concert band and the jazz band at Gulliver. He began playing clarinet in fourth grade at Gulliver Academy and picked up the sax during his sophomore year.
"I really wanted to play in the jazz band," Callender says.
He is also in a jazz combo.
“We perform for a lot of Gulliver events,” he says.
Last school year, the combo was so busy that it did not book anything outside of Gulliver, yet stayed busy performing at five big events.
Callender was good enough to be chosen for the District Honor Band and the University of Miami Honor Band last school year.
“I made the top band for that,” he says.
“The UM Honor band was earlier in the year. You have to audition and your teacher recommends you. There is the top wind ensemble. You have to audition to make the top wind ensemble. It’s roughly 30 people. The other band is 80 people.”
Callender received superior ratings for his clarinet play at both the district and state competitions. He also received superiors at district and state for his part in a sax quartet and jazz combo.
Callender works hard for his success, practicing almost every night for two hours.
“When I’m going to commit the time to practice, I’m going to practice,” he says.
Another outlet for his music is the Coral Gables Congregational Church All Star Jazz Band. That band is primarily made up of high school students.
“It’s an audition process so the better kids get in,” he says. “We play jazz, funk and modern jazz.”
That band plays not only at the church, but also travels around the county to perform.
Rehearsals have started again for the church jazz band and a performance is scheduled for Nov. 15 on the radio.
Outside of music, Callender is involved in Gulliver’s Engineering Club.
“I’m working on a disaster relief-type project,” he says. “We started meetings over the summer and they led into the school year. We are making a clean-energy generator for hurricane relief. It’s going to be dedicated to Colin Bateman, a teacher who passed away (this summer). We thought it was a good idea to dedicate it to him.”
At school, aside from the Gulliver music program, Callender is involved in Operation Smile, a club that raises money to provide surgeries for international children with cleft palates. He is also in Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
“It’s a club that tries to make students aware of decisions they make, like driving drunk,” he says.
Early in his high school career, Callender participated on the swim team and the water polo team. But he had to drop sports because of his academic workload in the International Baccalaureate program, and because of the numerous rehearsals he had to attend for his music
This year, Callender has decided to play soccer. He wants to play club soccer and then try out for the Gulliver soccer team.
Callender plans to major in engineering and minor in music when he goes off to college. His college list includes Washington University in St. Louis, Rice, Columbia, the University of Michigan and Harvard.
“I’m definitely not going to give it (music) up,” he says.
In fact, this summer he had a scholarship to attend a Julliard Jazz Camp at Snow College in Utah. “Overall it was an awesome experience for me to be around the Julliard faculty,” he says. “It re-motivated me to work really hard on jazz.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld