Crossroads 10th Grader Honored with Black Lives Matter Music Scholarship

Saxophonist Nathan Petros received a scholarship from the CA Alliance for Jazz.
When thinking back to the origins of his music journey, Nathan Petros remembers being a 5-year-old watching television when his mother, Mimi, asked him, “Have you ever considered playing an instrument?” She had just seen a flier at their front door advertising piano lessons at a local music school. Nathan responded, “Oh, sure,” not quite understanding what an instrument was or how this moment would eventually lead him to discover his passion for playing jazz. A few years after he first started piano lessons, Nathan picked up a saxophone through Crossroads’ third grade winds program and has been playing ever since. “I heard the third grade band play ‘Hard Rock Blues’ and it was the pinnacle of music for me back then,” says Nathan. 

Nathan’s talent and development as a young musician were recently recognized by the California Alliance for Jazz, which honored him with a Black Lives Matter Scholarship. CA Alliance for Jazz is a nonprofit that aims to promote jazz education and performance throughout the state. The Black Lives Matter scholarship, open to any jazz-playing musician under the age of 21 who identifies as African American, is awarded based on a competitive application process. The application includes a personal essay component, and requires students to submit a letter of recommendation from a music educator and a recording of themselves performing a song of their choosing. 

Upper School Music Teacher and Department Chair Ramsey Castaneda first started teaching Nathan in ninth grade and immediately recognized something special. “Nathan is among the most passionate and tenacious young musicians that I have encountered during my tenure as a music educator,” says Ramsey. “He is the kind of student music teachers love: He is brimming with natural talent yet also understands and respects the hard work and long path of dedicated patience required to achieve excellence in music.” 

Ramsey encouraged Nathan to apply for the scholarship, but Nathan says that the honor came as a complete shock. “When I got the email, my mom was going crazy. She’s been a big part of my music career. She started me in music and still helps me with all of my performances,” says Nathan. “I also want to thank Ramsey because he really pushed me to do this. He helped me get my band together and get the form of what I played. He’s helped me fix my solo—building it instead of just coming out blazing. I really want to thank him because he was a big part of this.” 

For Nathan, what makes music so special is its ability to convey feelings without words. Ultimately, he views music as a way to express himself. “You know how everyone has thoughts that they don’t know how to say? Music is really my way to get past that barrier.” 

To listen to Nathan’s music performance for the CA Jazz Alliance scholarship application, click here