Fenton Lio

John Jay Musician Touches History and Reaches Towards His Future

It’s not every high school musician that is two degrees of separation from Buddy Rich or Frank Sinatra. John Jay junior Fenton Lio is.

The accomplished guitarist has been accepted into WCSMA All County High School Jazz Band A, conducted by Bill Cunliffe—a jazz pianist, composer and Grammy Award-winning arranger who got his start playing and arranging for the great jazz drummer Buddy Rich, and touring with Frank Sinatra.

“This is a very prestigious group to get into and highly competitive, especially as a guitarist,” said John Jay Band teacher Jared Henderson. “Fenton will work with other top high school jazz students in the area under a fabulous conductor.”

Fenton’s life is filled with music

We caught up with Fenton the day after the group’s first rehearsal and he was … jazzed.

“It’s great to play with people who love the same type of music,” said Fenton. “Playing with musicians of that caliber is really fun.”

Fenton is excited that the group is playing original pieces by Cunliffe. He described his part in one of the pieces, a jazz funk song. “The guitar lays down chords that keep the tempo together,” he said. “There are 16 measures of rests—I’m counting and counting—then I come in. It’s hard and it’s fun.”

Fenton’s life is filled with music.

He plays cello in John Jay High School Orchestra, the NYSSMA All State Orchestra, the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, and in a community cello ensemble. He plays guitar in John Jay’s house band, Route 121, and Jazz Band, and sings in the Treblemakers, a student-run a Capella group. He also writes and produces his own music which he releases on streaming platforms and performs throughout the year.

“Songs are stuck in my head,” he said. “If I drop something, I think of a rhythm.”