Teen trumpeter Joey Curreri cuts his chops — and an album — at Grammy Jazz Camp in Marina del Rey

By Gary Walker

Jazz prodigy Joey Curreri

Music is such a big part of Venice teen Joey Curreri’s life that he yearned for a bigger stage to further hone his craft.

The devoted trumpet player found it at Grammy Jazz Camp, a nine-day series of sessions in which budding musicians get to work with some of the best in the biz.

Curreri was one of only of 32 students chosen through a nationwide search to take part in the camp, held from Feb. 4 to Feb 13 in Marina del Rey.

“If I didn’t have so much luggage I would have been able to walk to camp,” joked Curreri, 16, a junior at Hamilton High School who attended Braddock Middle School in Del Rey and Coeur d’Alene Avenue Elementary School in Venice.

Playing with an all-star group of his peers was both inspirational, said Curreri, and really helped him sharpen his talents.

“I felt really lucky to be there. It just blew me away,” he said. “I’d never played in a band where everyone cared so much about music.”

Curreri and his bandmates attended the Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Feb. 19 and played at several related events before and after the music industry’s premiere showcase, including a party for the Grammy nominees and an official after-party.

They also recorded an album, “Grammy Jazz 25,” at Capitol Studios inside the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood.

“Joey is an excellent trumpeter, but he’s indicative of all of the students that we invite to our Grammy Jazz Camps,” Grammy Foundation Vice President Scott Goldman said.

Mastering the trumpet — a brass instrument that requires coordinated breathing techniques — is an especially impressive feat for Curreri. He has had asthma since he was a child but thinks the trumpet has actually helped him with his respiratory condition.

“I put a lot of focus on my breathing technique, and playing the trumpet helps me strengthen the airways in my lungs,” he said.

Curreri’s mother said she picked up on some subtle differences in her son after he returned from camp.

“I noticed that he had a certain level of confidence I would have never expected,” said Sherry Curreri, an author and former CNN producer. “When he was younger he was very shy, and now he’s overcome his shyness due to his love of performing and playing. I’m so glad that he’s found something that he loves.”

Curreri had to submit an audition tape to qualify for Grammy camp, and to impress the judges he chose the works of some of jazz’s best trumpeters: Chet Baker, Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw.

Playing with him on the audition tape were his father — Lee Curreri, a composer and musician on the movie and television series “Fame” — and three friends from Hamilton High, making it a friends-and-family affair.

The camp is one of many student initiatives of the Santa Monica-based Grammy Foundation.

“There’s no question that part of our mission is nurturing the next generation of young musicians,” Goldman said.

Sherry Curreri says she’s amazed at her son’s dedication to music. With lessons, rehearsals and music classes at school, he’s at it at least six hours a day.

“He’s always listening to jazz, learning about it and practicing. Joey is the perfect combination of talent and really hard work,” she said.

The experience of this year’s camp behind him, Curreri plans to audition for a chance to return next year but takes nothing for granted.

“I learned that it’s really about having your own sound, not being nervous and being a solid, refined player,” he said. “There’s always other guys who want that spot.”