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Alex Sakata earns JACL scholarship
Sierra High senior plays in UOP youth symphony
Sierra High School Alex Sakata plays the trumpet that he inherited from his maternal grandfather who was a professional musician. Sakata is the recipient of the 2013 Harry & Dorothy Ota Memorial Chapter Scholarship of the French Camp Japanese American Citizens League. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

It’s not merely by chance that Alex Sakata favors his saxophone and trumpet more than the nearly half-dozen musical instruments that he plays quite proficiently.

The saxophone was handed down to him by his maternal grandfather who once played for swing bands besides being a choir member. He inherited the vintage trumpet from his great-grandfather who was also a noted musician during his time.

Hence, one can say, music in the genes of Sakata, a Sierra High School senior who will be graduating next month.

“He gets (his musical abilities) from my side,” Sakata’s mother, Darlene Bagshew, a pharmacist at Walmart in Manteca, said with a smile.

The talented young musician was introduced to different musical instruments while in third grade at Brock Elliott Elementary when he started his piano lessons. He picked up the trumpet in fifth grade when he was 11 years old. The flugelhorn came next during his freshman year at Sierra High.

He excelled in all. The talented musician, through the years, has consistently been selected to perform in numerous San Joaquin County Office of Education and Manteca Unified School District honor band programs.  On April 29, he will be playing his final performance with the Central Valley Youth Symphony at the University of the Pacific. Three other senior students in Manteca are performing at this UOP youth symphony as well – Ben Tolman of Manteca High, and Eric of East Union. Sakata also has attended the UOP Dave Brubeck Jazz camps for two years, in 2010 and 2012.

For his academic excellence – he holds a 3.4 GPA – Sakata was chosen to receive the 2013 Harry & Dorothy Ota Memorial Chapter Scholarship given by the French Camp Japanese American Citizens League. He plans to attend California State University – Fresno which awarded him a Marching Band scholarship. His goal is to major in biology and music therapy.

Sakata’s extracurricular activities are many. Last summer, he took part in a Japanese exchange program and lived for more than two weeks with a Japanese family in Shizuoka, Japan, the sister city of Stockton. He also participated as a Freedom Walk volunteer with the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, representing his grandfathers Kenji Torigoe and George Sakata at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“He does a lot of volunteer work at church working with fund-raisers,” said Bagshew.

In 2010, the Timberwolves senior raised $3,000 for the Washington, D.C., national Japanese American Memorial Foundation Freedom Walk, a project that raises awareness and education of the Japanese American experience during World War II. For his effort, Salata was honored by the foundation in D.C.