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The Big Time on a Borrowed Horn

Alex Cummings, a Camden teen, plays his way to Oberlin on a borrowed horn.

We were sitting in the music room of Camden's Creative Arts High School,  Alex Cummings  recalling his mother's face when he told her he'd been accepted into Oberlin College's conservatory of music. "Her eyes got real big."

Then he told her the price tag -- $52,000.

His mom, a factory worker who barely speaks English, got real quiet.

Then he hit her with the news: it was free. A community came together to speak up for Cummings, including a Bucks County foundation and author James McBride, who recruits for Oberlin, his alma mater, and plays saxophone as well.

Friday night I watched in the audience as Cummings led the school's big band in a ferocious "Tribute to Trane," roaring through "Giant Steps," making "Naima" melt. Today's metro column is about making it to the big time on a borrowed horn.

Alex and his band have a MySpace page where you can hear them play.