KEENE VALLEY - Jonah Kazmierczak is busy.
Weekdays, he attends Keene Central School, where he is an eighth grader. His favorite subjects are music and band, followed by gym. After school, he works at Leepoff Cycles, where owner Mark Nassan teaches him some of the basics of bike repair. Then he goes home for dinner and does his homework.
Somehow, though, he always finds time to make music.
Jonah Kasmierczak (Photo — Martha Allen)
Kazmierczak 's favorite instrument is a cherry red Epiphone electric bass. He also owns a sunburst orange custom bass. Is there a difference in sound?
"The orange one has more of a low end, and this one's more punchy," he explains.
"I've played piano since third grade. I took lessons, and I took cello at school-Wood Road School in Ballston Spa. I came to Keene Central School right after Christmas break in fourth grade and played trombone in the school band. At the beginning of sixth grade, I was in the middle school band, and (band director) Mr. Stokes wanted me to play cello."
At the end of the school year, Stokes suggested he take up the electric bass guitar.
"At the beginning of seventh grade, my mom wanted me to play piano, and I took lessons from Betsy Stinson for most of seventh grade, but my main instrument was still the bass, and that's continued until now," Kazmierczak said.
Last summer, guided by publisher Victor Forbes, Kazmierczak and schoolmates Rory Riggins, Liza Amirault and Harry Joannette played at the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid for the Walk for Cancer. Kazmierczak, Riggins and Amirault also played together at the January Jams at the Recovery Lounge in Jay.
"Rory plays acoustic guitar," Kazmierczak said. "Liza is starting guitar. She plays the violin and sings, and plays mandolin just for fun."
Kazmierczak likes different kinds of music. An example he gives is "Wagon Wheel," a bluegrass/folk-inspired song recorded by Old Crow Medicine Show. He also favors alternative, funk and reggae. At school, he is learning jazz and blues, which he likes, too.
"Mr. Stokes is trying pop songs now, upbeat stuff, not like the blues. He's helped me a lot," Kazmierczak said. "I make up bass lines, and improvise. It's called walking bass lines, blues and jazz, up and down scales."
As Kazmierczak talks, he reaches down to pet his 10-year-old foster dog, Clark, a friendly diabetic beagle mix with a surprisingly puppylike look. This is the second foster dog that Kasmierczak, an animal lover, has cared for. The family already has a dog, Hadley, a blue-eyed husky, and is fostering Clark until he finds a permanent home.
When he's not making music, going to school, working on bikes or tending pets, Kazmierczak may be found mountain hiking, longboarding, downhill biking or skiing.
"Last summer, I took a beginner whitewater paddling class with Ed Palen, the instructor for the Keene Outdoor Club. In winter, I ski a lot at Whiteface and Titus Mountain, and backcountry. ... I skied with Glen Plake and Chris Davenport at the Mountaineer's Backcountry Ski Fest.
"I've done some ice climbing with Jake Riggins. That's a fun thing," he said.
For such an able sportsman, Kasmierczak has tended to be somewhat accident prone. When asked whether ice climbing can be dangerous, he replied, "Yes. I broke my back and my neck."
This was not true, Kazmierczak's expression of wide-eyed innocence notwithstanding. He likes to joke.
It is, however, true that he broke both arms at different times. On one of these occasions, he told a classmate to tell the coach that he had broken his arm. The classmate just laughed, figuring his friend Kaz was pulling his leg.
On another memorable afternoon, his fifth-grade class was out by the school pond, writing poems. Kazmierczak opted to sit on a log half-submerged in the water. When he tried to stand up, he couldn't get any purchase on the slippery log, his feet went out from under him, and he fell into the pond.
The water wasn't deep, but he sank into the mud up to his chest.
The school nurse called his parents to ask them to bring dry clothes.
"Your son has fallen into the beaver pond," the nurse said.
Just as he was getting changed, the fire drill alarm sounded, and he ran outside in bare feet, drenched, muddy clothes.
Plans for the future?
Kazmierczak plans to play music and work at the bike shop this summer and play bass in the high school band next year.
He's staying busy.