A performance must move or inspire the listener. My hope is that sharing my true humanity with them on the stage will momentarily or permanently effect their lives and encourage them to experience the value of such musical connections.
With this in mind, I hope to share, below, more with you about what makes me tick within music itself.
Making music is everything. Putting thought, care, and devotion into each musical moment makes life more meaningful to me. The feeling of vulnerability and connection to your collaborators and audience while performing is something that becomes more sacred to me with each passing day. A shift in harmony, a change in tone color, a change in vibrato, and performing with a deep understanding of the overall structure and shape of a piece are all examples of meaningful musical subtleties that have the potential to take a performance from good to life-changing for the creator and listener alike.
Even in this increasingly fast-paced world, I still believe that there is value in creating art with a profound level of commitment, intellect, and intuition. In a way, technology and electronically created sounds have raised our standard of expectation for what amazing sound is. Movie scores, doctored recordings, etc. have created a world in which we have to work twice as hard now to captivate our audiences with the live experience.
I am obsessed with working towards creating a sound world with my instrument that transcends description. How is the performer creating the sound? How do they change registers with so much ease? How do they fill the room without playing or singing loudly? How can the saxophone sound like so many different instruments? The sound created must be puzzling. The sound must emanate from and return to the silence in the room with the utmost care. It must be interesting enough to engage a listener of the 21st century.
On the concert stage, I feel totally free to express myself without reservation. I often have the feeling when I meet new people that they can’t truly know me until they hear me play. This probably sounds pretentious in some way, but this really just means that I feel more like myself while performing than I ever could in everyday life. Music is a place for me to live out the full gamut of emotions of everyday life. Being a black man in today’s American society can be paralyzing. When you know that some people around you may be afraid of you, or worse, it starts to feel like your job to stay away from them or actively try not to do anything that could be misconstrued as suspicious or predatory behavior. As such, my general demeanor and personality is often much more calculated and reserved than I would like for it to be. The stage, in contrast, is a place where people want and expect you to be 100% expressive and show your personality. This is an idea of the utmost beauty to me.
My primary goal is to foster a love and respect for music and high-level thinking in my students while supporting their growth as contributing members of society.
I am a rigorous teacher that focuses on guiding students to the root of each musical issue, not on short-term cover ups or paths to “good-enough.” I believe that what we do as musicians is incredibly important to the world. I expect my students to be informed, thoughtful, genuine artists that use the saxophone to express their artistic vision. This expectation applies to students of all majors.
Listening to and experiencing great music and art is also imperative. I can do my best to explain concepts, but the internal desire to create powerful moments can only truly come from personal experience. I encourage my students to listen to and reflect on as much as they possibly can!
As students often take on characteristics of their primary teachers, I can promise that I, too, will always push myself to be a more communicative, affecting performer and healthy, productive citizen. I envision a studio in which we are all growing together - teacher and students alike.
Finally, I believe in maintaining a studio community that is supportive, inquisitive, and energized. Students can inspire and learn from each other in a way that lifts everyone up and creates lifelong relationships.
Join us at Ithaca College in our journey towards being the best version of ourselves and making a positive impact on the world through music!