I went to Indiana University after my senior year of HS, the year I played with the [IYWS], planning to major in both music performance and business. Near the end of my music degree, with another year of course requirements to finish the business degree, I was attending an accounting class lecture and suddenly realized that I did not want stop studying music. I dropped the business major immediately and started preparing for life as a professional musician, which for most saxophonists means securing an academic teaching position after obtaining a DM or DMA.
I auditioned into the MM program at IU (practicing harder than I ever had time to do as a double major!), started a saxophone quartet named the ‘Zzyzx Quartet’ with a few other graduate students, and later successfully auditioned into the DMA program at the Eastman School of Music. While at Eastman, I become a founding member and later assistant director of the Eastman Saxophone Project—the only conductorless saxophone ensemble in the US that performs programs completely from memory—and I formed another saxophone quartet named ‘Project Fusion’ which won prizes in 6 chamber music competitions throughout the country.
Knowing I needed to prepare extensively for a teaching job, I used all of my elective credits in the DMA program at Eastman to earn a second Masters degree, an MA in Music Theory Pedagogy. As a saxophonist, it is unlikely to secure a job just managing a saxophone studio: those jobs usually only exist at major conservatories and universities and typically do not go to entry-level candidates, so I tried to diversify my teaching experiences as much as possible in case I would be called on to teach in multiple areas at a smaller school such music theory, music history, jazz, music appreciation, other woodwinds etc. After a year of applying for teaching jobs while finishing up the post-coursework requirements for my DMA, I just won an audition for the U.S. Army Band ‘Pershing’s Own’ as baritone saxophonist in the concert band. Life can be ironic—after spending so much of my education preparing to teach, I ended up getting a job where I actually do get to play my instruments for a living! Well, if I survive basic training 😛
To future members of the IYWS:
I look back very fondly on my time in the [IYWS] and I can testify that it made me a better musician and helped prepare me for my future career in music. Because only the top young musicians could audition into [IYWS], it provided a unique opportunity to rehearse and perform a significant amount of repertoire (I think we gave 5-6 concerts the year I was involved) with above-average musicians. I remember feeling the pressure to be prepared at every rehearsal, knowing I was surrounded by so many other talented people my age! We also tackled many pieces of music that I never would have been able to play in my high school band: this exposed me to much more repertoire than I would have otherwise encountered in high school, and offered up new challenges for my playing.
The experience of auditioning for the ensemble and becoming acclimated to a ‘professional-style’ concert schedule (the group had only a few rehearsals prior to each performance) was enlightening. One’s ability to do well as a professional musician hinges on the capabilities to play well under pressure and prepare music quickly. [IYWS] offered both of these opportunities and it definitely helped prepare me for life as a music school student and even as a professional musician.
I remember looking forward to rehearsals every week, not just for the musical experiences but because I became friends with others in the ensemble. [IYWS] members tend to take music a little more seriously than most and I really enjoyed meeting people my age who were as passionate about music as I was, who I never would have met otherwise. I’m still in touch with several members of [IYWS] who were in the group with me, and I’ve enjoyed watching all their successes over the years!”