Whenever I tell people the instrument I play, they automatically assume I do jazz. It makes sense, the saxophone can be heard throughout all jazz styles of ragtime, bebop, swing, and others. Jazz is an awesome style of music, but it isn’t what I primarily study at Peabody.
The classical saxophone studio at Peabody consists of about 15 undergraduate and graduate students, all taught under Prof. Gary Louie. While the saxophone isn’t a regular part of symphonic orchestra (you can find it in military/wind bands), there’s still a lot of classical repertoire out there for us saxophonists to play.
Sometimes it almost feels weird playing the saxophone from a classical standpoint, especially because there’s this overwhelming notion that the instrument is for jazz purposes only. There’s also the fact that the saxophone was invented too late for many of the well known symphonic works (yes, I’ll always be sour about that). But I think that the saxophone holds a special place in classical music because of its relative rarity – the tone and sound of the instrument is distinctively melancholy yet filled with so much power and clarity. (See the end of this blog post for some pieces I’m working on!)
Because there are such few classical saxophonists out there (compared to other classical instruments), we’re able to create our own special niches in the classical world through solo performing, small chamber music groups, premiering new works and compositions, teaching, and other unique ways. Being a classical saxophonist is about going against the grain of what it means to be a classical musician, but also embodying every aspect of what a classical musician should be.
After a semester of living at Peabody (the music conservatory campus), I’m grown to better understand what it means to be a musician. In the presence of extremely talented, hilarious, and inspiring teachers (I promise I’ll interview some of them someday!) and peers, I’ve come to really love what I’m doing here at school. Bring on the music!
As promised above, my “homework” for saxophone lessons. Take a listen to the types of pieces I’m working on!
Solo repertoire work:
Sonata for Alto Saxophone, Op. 19 by Paul Creston – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLaJHdbhqZI
Tableaux de Provence by Paul Maurice – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrykcPOEWRs
Wind Ensemble pieces:
Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9 by Hector Berlioz – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ_KlnQaOc4
Hold this Boy and Listen by Carter Pann – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_Fw_ov-KKk
Four Scottish Dances, Op.59 by Malcolm Arnold – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7XcYCh2vzw
A Child’s Garden of Dreams by David Maslanka – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCZdgrTCR6s