The COTA program has by far been the most influential in my growth as a musician. Especially the COTA Cats. They were the first honors group I was ever part of and I can’t imagine a better group of young musicians to enjoy the world of jazz with. Before the Cats, I was into jazz but not that extensively. The COTA Cats exposed me to my own area, since it is heavy with jazz history and still is home to many well-known jazzers like Phil Woods, Sherrie Maricle, and Rick Chamberlain! Being a COTA Cat taught me the meaning of “giving back.” Not every foundation is thanked for the work they do, but our directors, Mr. Rauh, Ms. Clagg, Mr. Fadden, and Mr. Curchoe, made sure that we showed how much the COTA program meant to us. Even before the actual concert, it was amazing hearing that we were expected to clean the stage. Not as a punishment or anything, but because it was tradition to do so. The Cats taught me that it’s a musician’s responsibility to not only play their best, but to give back to the audience and community. And I definitely hope and plan on giving back to the COTA Cats.