JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Jacob Roberts missed playing with the band at Jamestown High School while distance learning last year during the coronavirus pandemic. But for the tenor drummer who wanted to write his own cadences, it turned out to be the perfect time to start creating — and dreaming — big.
Now, the 17-year-old junior has five copyrighted pieces to his credit in the Library of Congress, and has self-published his percussion music for purchase through jwpepper.com, a popular website to find sheet music.
For Roberts, the desire to create cadences for a drumline to play in between songs had been simmering for a while.
He created a cadence for middle school in his sophomore year, in 2019. He brought it to Ken Aune, the Jamestown Middle School band director, who offered some tips to improve it.
“The original was a bit too easy for my kids, so Jacob took it back and added some cool rhythms to it,” Aune said.
Roberts worked on it and brought it back.
‘He (Aune) said, ‘Yeah, we’ll play this,’” Roberts said.
But then the coronavirus pandemic happened and the middle school band didn’t play it after all.
“That was my first finished piece that looked professional and that I was proud of,” Roberts said. “The name of that one is 'Middle School Cadence 2020.'”
Aune said he will be holding a summer band camp this year in June and the students will be playing the cadence.
“We’re looking forward to premiering his cadence at summer band camp,” Aune said.
Finding 'fun ideas' for pieces
Roberts said he had a lot more time on his own during the school year in 2020 because of the pandemic. Missing playing with the school band, he would look up pep band songs on YouTube and play along with them.
And play. And play.
“I had callouses all over my hands and fingers,” Roberts said. “I just missed playing with a band so much that I continued just playing and playing for hours on end. And then that was when I started to have some ideas of fun, different improvisations and fun ideas for different pieces and then I started to write them down.”
He said his father, Aaron, advised him to copyright the pieces he created. That happened in October 2020, with four cadences and a solo. Roberts said getting them copyrighted was “huge,” showing it was his original work. In March, he self-published them for purchase on jwpepper.com.
“Triple Threat,” one of the cadences, was performed by the Jamestown High School band during its Band Night Parade appearance recently in Bismarck.
“It’s really amazing hearing something of your own for the very first time in person,” Roberts said, recalling the band’s first rehearsal with his work. “Because not only did you just hear it, but you really feel it, especially with cadences. And you feel it through your body especially when you’re really close.”
Dareien Lund, the high school band director, said when she is looking for a cadence for the band to perform, she looks for a unique sound that gets the audience and the students “amped up” for the activity or performance as well as music that creates a challenge for students and doesn’t bore them early on.
“So we get from Jacob’s music — it balances that challenge factor for all of my students, they’re all at a different level,” Lund said. “But it is also very unique sounding and very pleasing to listen to as you’re marching down the street. Or if you’re just a bystander and you hear these interesting rhythms and techniques.”
She said what Roberts has accomplished with his percussion music is “extremely unusual.”
“We have students that compose music and we’ve used it but I’ve never had a student that has gone through the process of getting it copyrighted and having his music available for purchase on J.W. Pepper,” she said.
She said J.W. Pepper is known on a national level and is used by music teachers as well as others.
Roberts recently worked with Fenworks, an esports company, on a cadence jingle to promote the company. He wants to work with colleges and other companies to write more cadences and also is working on other cadences at this time.
He wants to continue working to be a successful composer but doesn’t plan for it to be his main career. After graduating from high school, Roberts will attend North Dakota State College of Science for training to be a machinist.
But Roberts also expects to keep playing music and play it in Jamestown. He plans to return here to work after college and volunteer to play at the University of Jamestown.