The Music Man AS CHRISTIAN BROTHERS’ BAND DIRECTOR, HE CALLS THE TUNE
BY JESSICA LASKEY ARTIST SPOTLIGHT
ever has the word “instrumental” been more apt to describe someone. Travis Maslen, the band director at Christian Brothers High School, oversees every instrumental program the school offers, from beginning band to honors band and everything in between. “Our program is unique because the school lets me teach beginners as well as advanced students,” Maslen explains. “Kids can start at the bottom—they don’t have to have any experience at all—and play anything they want.” The flexibility and breadth of CB’s music program can pretty much be traced back to their fearless leader Maslen, who’s been with the school since 2004 and taught for nine years before that at St. Charles Borromeo School off Mack Road. The Elk Grove native plays several instruments: flute while he was a student at Mira Loma High School, piano while earning his bachelor’s in music at Sacramento State, saxophone and French horn in the Elk Grove Community Band, trombone in the Dixieland jazz band the Elder Creek Stompers and bass guitar with the Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society. Anything he doesn’t currently play, he’s more than willing to pick up. “I believe in grabbing an instrument and showing the kids how to play it,” Maslen says. “It shows them that I wasn’t born playing lots of these instruments—just like them—so they can figure it out with me.”
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This can-do spirit has earned Maslen a legion of admirers over the years and grown the programs at both St. Charles and CB to never-beforeseen proportions.
“I’m all for getting as many people involved as possible. There’s strength in numbers,” Maslen explains. “If you can fill the room, the more the merrier. At St. Charles, I ran their
choir program, too, and after nine years, half the school population was involved. Here at CB, our string ensemble class started with six kids, and now we consistently have 20 to 25 kids. That’s a good amount to have in one class. That means you can give them a little more attention.” The consistent popularity of his classes must convince Maslen that he made the right decision to pursue music as a student at Mira Loma. “I did band and choir in high school,” Maslen recalls. “I loved music, but I was also in the ROP firefighting program. When I was making the decision about what to study in college, my friend asked, ‘What are you going to be happy doing for the next 40 years of your life?’ The answer was music, and I never looked back.” Maslen runs a packed instrumental program that includes beginning band, concert band, drumline, jazz band, string ensemble, honors band, a ukulele club and even opportunities to play in the pit for the annual school musical. “Compared to other high schools, we don’t have a huge marching band,” Maslen admits, “but that’s because students can play in the band and be on the football team and do student leadership. It’s a little different than when I was in school, when you had to pick your poison and stick with it. Here we only have a little over 1,000 students, and all the teachers are sharing the same kids.” Though scheduling the shared student body might sound like the stuff of nightmares, the smaller class size has allowed Maslen and his fellow