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Rising Artists: Billings West saxophone star thriving with 'holy grail' instrument

Zach Broveak
Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 28, 2024

BILLINGS — What’s the most expensive thing you bought in high school? A cell phone, a computer, maybe a car? All good, but none of them sound as good as Zach Broveak's sax.

"The Mark VI is the holy grail for a lot of saxophones," Broveak said.

The instrument in question is a 1973 Mark VI tenor saxophone. It cost Broveak $5,000 - and it’s been worth every penny.

"I saw it this way: I had worked for the money, and this is an appreciating asset," Broveak said. "I have no intention of getting rid of it, but I really did think about the financial aspect."

Zach Broveak
Zach Broveak bought his 1973 Mark VI tenor saxophone for just under $5,000.

Despite it's potential resale value, there's a more important reason Broveak is holding on to this one.

"The man I bought it from said it was only owned by one person before," Broveak said. "I'm assuming it was some kind of a pro, who toured the world, playing at universities and things like that."

"With that specific horn, it was the story that made it interesting," added Thomas Burke, Broveak's saxophone teacher. "What he’s going to do with it will be unique to the story of that horn."

He’s doing great things so far. Broveak is the best high school sax player in the state, sitting first chair for both tenor and alto sax in the All State band and All State jazz band. He’s come a long way from randomly deciding to pick it up in the 5th grade.

"I don’t know (why I chose saxophone)," he said. "I just thought it was cool I guess."

Zach Broveak (left) and teacher Thomas Burke play together during a saxophone practice session at Billings West High School.

Broveak has even played a couple of professional gigs. His first came last December with Burke. Broveak showed up that night with a surprise.

"I remember printing out copies of the acceptance letter to give to people that had supported me along the way," Broveak said.

"He printed me a copy of this letter," Burke said. "He brought it in and said, ‘Burke, here! I’ve got something for you!’”

Stanford letter
Zach Broveak was accepted at Stanford University in December 2023, the same day he played his first professional saxophone gig.

If his constant Cardinal clothing didn't give it away, Broveak was accepted at Stanford University, where he’ll study computer science starting this fall. But the saxophones - plural - are coming with him as he looks to continue his story.

"I always want to be in a band where I’m the worst player," he said, "so it inspires me to get better."

"I always look for the moment when he comes back, we’ll sit in a jazz jam, and he’ll just shred me," Burke said. "That is the coolest thing, when that will probably go down.

It will no doubt be pretty cool.

Zach Broveak
Zach Broveak sits first chair on both tenor saxophone and alto saxophone in multiple bands across the state.