Senior spotlights: Brandon Sumida and Colin Shew


When the principal of Gilroy High School informed Brandon Sumida
he was on track to becoming salutatorian, Sumida’s position on
talking in front of a large crowd was less than exuberant.

My first idea when I heard the word speech?

NAME: Brandon Sumida

AGE: 17

GPA: 4.54

DREAM JOB: Doctor. Oncology? Orthopedics? Emergency room? It’s all fair game, Sumida says.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “You can’t change your circumstances, but you can change how you respond to them.” – Condoleezza Rice

When the principal of Gilroy High School informed Brandon Sumida he was on track to becoming salutatorian, Sumida’s position on talking in front of a large crowd was less than exuberant.

“My first idea when I heard the word speech?”

Sumida paused.

“Not good.”

While the task of inspiring an audience during graduation was initially daunting, the soft-spoken senior said he’s had a significant turnaround and is warming up to the idea.

What spawned the newfound confidence is still a mystery, he says.

But Sumida – who’s not shy “unless it’s in front of big crowds … especially if I have to talk to them” – is going with the flow.

GHS principal Marco Sanchez described the 17-year-old as “very humble,” which is “an asset in this day and age.”

Modest as Sumida may be, you’ve got to laud the self-discipline it takes to spend part of a Great America trip studying in the parking lot.

“My mom was wondering why I even came,” said Sumida, who went to the theme park with his family a week before AP testing.

Four hours into their outing, Sumida retreated to the car, locking himself in a theater of sound while “listening to music and dictating it for four hours.”

The longtime piano player and saxophonist displays an openness to new hurdles such as music theory – a highly technical course that turned out to be one of his most challenging classes during senior year.

“I wanted to take it because I didn’t really understand music that well,” he said. “I could play it, but I didn’t comprehend it completely.”

Having participated in symphonic band, wind ensemble and choir as well, Sumida leaves behind a sonorous high school career – but music is just one of his fortés.

He’s is also on the track team and planning to study biochemistry at UCLA so he can become a doctor.

Come college, opportunities abound for this future Bruin, who says “there’s lots of things that I really want to try – crew, choir, get involved in clubs … there’s almost too much. I just hope I can do it all, or most of it.”

Anything he won’t take on?

“Spiders. I hate spiders.”

NAME: Colin Shew

AGE: 18

GPA: 4.38

DREAM JOB: Shew’s considering going pre-med; “maybe a doctor” or something related to science and research

FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL MEMORY: A band trip to Hawaii during spring break

Gilroy High School’s music man can toot his own horn – but when it comes to a detailed list of accomplishments, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

“There’s no ego in Colin Shew,” said Gilroy band director Greg Grant.

When asked if he was first chair trumpet, Shew said, “I guess.”

“He’s the best player in the band,” said Grant.

This burgeoning Miles Davis was the recipient of the Outstanding Musician Award during Wednesday’s annual high school Concert on the Green; a sweet milestone to cap off his melodious legacy in the Garlic Capital.

Oh yeah – Shew’s also the No. 5 trumpet player in the state – just a minor detail he forgot to mention.

What the senior casually referred to as “something extra to do on the side” is the California Band Directors Association All-State Honor Band, where only 30 trumpets make the cut.

From here, Grant explained, there are three levels – the top with only five seats open to trumpets – and Shew nabbed the fifth.

Shew said he considered quitting band in middle school, but continued with his family’s encouragement. They are now accustomed to him taking over the living room to practice.

“Hopefully it’s easier to listen to than when I first started,” he joked.

When he’s not practicing five days a week after school in advanced band and marching band, Shew’s excelling in four AP classes and gearing for a transition to UCLA. Here he’ll study biology and continue to work those mad trumpet skills, hopefully with the marching band or wind ensemble.

“When somebody is dedicated and willing to learn and has a clear palette, with no perceived notions of anything but what you want to give them, this is what a person can achieve,” said Grant.

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