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Saxophone Journal

Saxophone Journal
January/February 2007

by Thomas Erdmann

Cover of Saxophone Journal Jan/Feb '07

Sonya Jason Interview

Sonya Jason
Interview by Thomas Erdmann

There is no doubt jazz has been a man's world for sometime. For women, vocalizing is almost the only way in. While the history of jazz has a great collection of women artists, very few of them have found widespread public and critical acclaim playing an instrument. For every Mary Lou Williams, Emily Remler and Janice Robinson, there are scores more males who have made it in the business. The reason for this is not easily ascertainable. Be it due to a lack of credible women musicians or outright bigotry we may never know, but the tide is certainly turning toward more women being accepted into the jazz realm.

The biggest gains for women have been in the smooth and contemporary jazz arena. Once backing up rock artists like Prince and the Backstreet Boys, saxophonists Pamela Williams, Candy Dulfer and Mindi Abair are part of the new woman instrumentalist insurgence. Add to this list the imminently talented Sonya Jason. Able to play with the verve and panache equal to smooth jazz's Walter Beasley, as she does on Tigress, yet also able to turn standards into vehicles of straight-ahead emotional singularity, as on The Supper Club, Jason's talents make her, conceivably, too good for radio.

Originally born in Wayne, Nebraska, she was playing piano by the age of four. At the age of ten she took up the saxophone. When the family moved to the Phoenix area she joined the Apollo High School band, considered, at the time, to be Arizona's leading jazz band. Two years of liberal arts study at Mills College in Oakland, and the experience of playing with the UC Berkeley big bands, led her to win the revered Phil Woods Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music. A summa cum laude graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Performance and Arranging, she originally moved back to Phoenix following graduation, then paid her dues in the Los Angeles music scene. Today Jason makes her home in the San Francisco Bay area, runs a thriving studio, is offered more gigs than she can ever possibly accept, leads a number of jazz workshops every year and truly lives the life of a working musician.

With three recordings as a solo artist under her belt, Jason has worked on recordings with Sheila E., the Yellowjacket's bassist Jimmy Haslip, Pete Escovedo, Alphonso Johnson, Vinnie Colaiuta, Bill Cunliffe, Joyce Cooling, Grant Geissman and John Beasely to name only a few. Live she has appeared in more than 4,000 concerts with artists like The Brothers Johnson, Ray Anthony, Narada Michael Walden, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Manilow, Shirley MacClaine, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Carol Channing, Mindi Abair, Dick Van Dyke and Nelson Braxton of the Braxton Brothers. In addition, Jason has appeared at more than 50 music festivals including the Golden Jubilee International Jazz Festival in Bangkok where she played for the King of Thailand.

As impressive as all of this is, when you note all of the great artists she's been paired with as the opening act you start to see how she is perceived within the musical community. Included in this list are Earth Wind and Fire, Ramsey Lewis, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Lionel Hampton, Lou Rawls, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Tom Scott, Stanley Clarke/George Duke Project, Sergio Mendez, Diane Schuur, Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Chuck Berry, Tower of Power, Jeff Lorber, Bobby Caldwell, Richard Marx, and on and on and on. Just one of her many honors was being asked, in 2005, by the Grammy Foundation to perform in Los Angeles with the Montclair Women's Big Band, Monica Mancini, Mindi Abair, and as opening act for Diane Schuur and Shirley Caeser in "Mavericks of Music: Celebrating the Contributions of Trailblazing Women."

If this was all you were to know of Jason you'd know she's accomplished, but when Phil Woods, an artist for whom giving compliments comes only once in a blue moon, said of Jason, "The lady can play! Emotion and fire well-tempered by a sensitive, warm approach. And she's funky as hell," well, you know the lady is special.

Do you come from a musical family?
More or less, yes. My mother was a piano teacher when I was growing up, and my first lessons on the piano were from her. She's still fairly active playing organ for church and piano for school choirs. I started on the piano at the age of four through my mother, who was always very encouraging. It's easy to be motivated to practice when your piano teacher is living in the same home. In total I studied with her, classically, for nine years.

Was there ever a thought you might want to follow classical studies into college?
No. When I picked up the horn at age 10 that became what I loved to do the most.

How did you come to choose the saxophone through the school band?
We went to a program where all the instruments were set up around the room for us. Ironically I hadn't heard most of them, so I didn't know what they sounded like or what the context was for their use in musical situations, but the saxophone was shiny (laughing). That was what I wanted to play. Early studies came pretty easily, mostly because of my piano background. I was accustomed to playing using two hands while reading two different clefs, all at the same time. Once I learned to make a decent sound and the saxophone's fingering, reading music for one note at a time was very easy. I progressed pretty fast.

Many times there is a teacher who we have as a youngster who inspires us to follow music as a career. Was there someone like that for you?
The biggest inspiration for me, in choosing music as a career, was when I saw A Star Is Born with Barbra Streisand. I also had been listening to the instrumental hits that had been coming out by Spyro Gyra and Chuck Mangione... A combination of those two things between the ages of 13 and 15 is what made me realize it was possible to have a successful career playing the saxophone.

Why did you choose Mills College?
I searched all over the country for schools that had strong reputations in the arts. I also had good grades and I wasn't going to have much financial help from my parents, so it was important to get a scholarship. I applied to several different schools, mostly on both coasts because I was from the Mid-west and I wanted to have a different experience. Mills was in San Francisco, which I knew was a high culture area. They offered me a great scholarship and they had a great reputation in the arts.

What was the experience like there?
It was fantastic. It was an ivory tower approach to a liberal arts education. It was a small women's college, which was wonderful because women had all the big opportunities. President of the class and the other leadership roles were all held by women, as opposed to being in a coed school where men typically take over those leadership positions. In terms of giving me confidence in being a woman in the world, as well as giving me a strong breadth of education as a foundation for my music at the time, Mills was great.

While you were there you were able to play in the UC Berkeley big bands. How did this happen?
Mills had a cross registration program with UC Berkeley. The only other musician in my class at Mills was a harpist, who was also from Arizona. My performing opportunities at Mills were limited, but there were commuter buses that went between the two schools, so I was able to cross register in the big band program at UC.

They have a really fine music program. What was the experience like for you there?
Wonderful training. Bill Aron was running the big band. Susan Muscarella, who has since opened The Jazzschool in Berkeley, was also working with him. I played lead alto in the big band and Bill used to yell at me, "Blow! Blow harder!" Now I can play loud.

How did you come to audition for Berklee in Boston?
I have to give some credit to my private teacher, Hal Stein, a bebopper from the Bay Area who turned me on to Phil Woods. I asked him where the best school was for learning jazz saxophone and learning how to make a living in music. That was the one thing that was missing at Mills. I knew when I got out I would have no idea how to put my musical skills to use in making a living... He pointed me to Berklee.

What was the experience at Berklee like?
It was a completely different world from Mills. Mills was an all women's college and Berklee had 10 men to every woman. It was also East Coast, being more edgy and competitive. I was very stressed, but I wanted the challenge... I felt if I could do well there I would be able to do well in the world. It really gave me the confidence to pursue music, even though it's not an easy business.

You were extremely successful at Berklee, winning a number of awards, and Berklee doesn't hand out awards cheaply.
My performance rating was high at Berklee which allowed me to play in some really great ensembles of many different styles. I kept my grades up, because it was important for me. I wanted to do well in classes. I went on to finish my degree at Berklee, which very few people do; to my knowledge only ten percent or so of the people who attend actually graduate. I felt if I could compete in that environment and do well in my classes, where there are 10 men to every woman � and all were very serious about music, then I had a strong chance of doing well in the real world.

You studied with Joe Viola there.
Yeah, he was so great. He was a very supportive and positive person who was calm and focused. I knew I was in the presence of a master who understood everything about the saxophone and knew what I needed to do in order to make a difference in my playing. I felt really fortunate to study with him. There were a lot of great teachers at Berklee, but only a few students were actually able to study with Joe. He was a master.

Was there anything from your Berklee experience that inspired you as you progressed toward becoming a professional musician?
There was something Joe said to me at my last private lesson with him that has perhaps become the foundation of my musical philosophy. I asked him what I should do next as I graduated from Berklee. He said, "You just need to get out there and play. You only need to practice about two hours a day. The rest of the time, go live life so that you have something to say with your music."

Following graduation you moved back to Arizona and began to establish your own musical career. What advice do you have for other musicians who are at the same point in their career, just beginning to establish themselves?
The first two years I was in Phoenix I took the opportunity to get to know the musicians in the area. That is so important, making connections with musicians who are already doing what you want to do. I went to a lot of the clubs, met the musicians and asked to sit in. Many were kind enough to give me that opportunity, and eventually I came to be known for my musical abilities. Whatever opportunity came up or whatever gig I was offered in whatever style, I said yes and did my best, no matter the situation. Presenting yourself with a level of integrity, showing up on time, doing a really good job, being supportive and offering to do what is needed in the setting you're in, rather than grandstanding and letting your ego get in the way, are all important traits to pay attention to. You want to absorb as much as you can.

How did you come to move to Los Angeles and what was the dues paying period like there for you?
I spent six years in Arizona and had really established myself. After two years I began to lead my own group and focused all of my attention on that. I had done a recording, and I knew the next step was to get a record deal. I had been trying to get the attention of some major labels, but being in Phoenix I was too far from the action. It's one thing to send in a recording and another to be in a place where the executives can come out and hear you play, meet you and get a sense who you are. A drummer friend of mine, Greg Warner, was traveling back and forth working in both cities, and he was very encouraging, telling me my playing was together, it was my time, I had original songs, a recording, a marketable look, good stage presentation and that now was the time to take that risk.

What were the environment and working conditions like there?
It's a huge city and highly competitive. People appear to be really friendly, but everyone is struggling so hard to make it. What I discovered after a while, was that even in their very bright and friendly nature they're looking for another opportunity for themselves. Living in L.A I found it very difficult to make a living, but at the same time I was very lucky in that I did get a number of opportunities and did do very well. My idea in going to LA was to get a record deal, and I was able to pull that off. After six months Warner's Discovery Music label signed me. In the making of that record, with the help of my co-producer and engineer Dennis Moody, we were able to get 22 of the best studio musicians in L.A. to perform along with me. That gave me a real credibility in the scene. I had fine musicians playing with me and I was able to do some high profile club gigs and festivals. Even though those wonderful things were happening, I still found it hard to make a living on a day to day basis.

The Tigress CD, which is the recording you made there, while being contemporary jazz, includes a lot of real improvisation, which may be why it's so good. You're uniquely suited to answer this question, because you're in the business. Do you think there is any room left for real improvisation in the smooth jazz/contemporary jazz radio market of today?
That's a pretty good question. I notice myself turning away from those stations more than I used to, and here I'm talking about The Wave syndication. It does all start to sound the same, like one big drum loop. The trend in the smooth jazz genre, to water things down and make them more simple for public consumption, is what has been disillusioning for the musicians who came up with the music in the first place. I was inspired to play contemporary jazz because there was not only Spyro Gyra and Chuck Mangione, but also Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. There were groups and artists who were cutting edge, using a lot of chops and a lot of harmonic depth yet playing with good musicality and utilizing rhythms from other cultures. That's what interested me. It was challenging, had depth and was worth listening to and playing.

Smooth jazz is so much more simple. Yes, there is room for improvisation in this music and we musicians who want to make these kinds of recordings need to keep making these recordings, but I don't think we can expect to get air play with them anymore. I'm so glad I did Tigress when I did, because we did it live. There were a few overdubs, maybe only 2 solos were overdubbed later, but we were all together playing live and all of what you hear is mostly first or second takes, all done live with the band. Today everybody's recording the music track by track. That album was a dream come true for me. I had been listening to groups like The Yellowjackets, and was able to have Jimmy Haslip, The Yellowjackets bassist, play on that CD with me. The players that made my original songs come to life did it in exactly the way I envisioned, because those were the players I was listening to. I knew this woman who was managing John Klemmer at the time, and she told me he had listened to it and said, "It's just too bad her label doesn't know what to do with her." I thought that was an interesting comment.

I recently interviewed John Klemmer for Saxophone Journal (that article is going to press as the interview is being written) and even he is flummoxed by the music business of today.
It's a whole different world now. It's not even desirable to have a record deal. That's why I have my website, and from a business perspective it's been very helpful for me here in the Bay Area. We have to look at the internet as the new marketing tool, but who knows where this is all going to lead next. In a way, I think it's a good trend because it may put the music back in the hands of the artist.

The Artist Share projects are in that vein. I interviewed Brian Lynch and he was very excited about how much time he put into making sure the music was done correctly for his project with Eddie Palmieri on Artist Share. He said there was no way any record company would have spent the kind of money he spent on that project, and the success of the project almost makes one wonder why more artists aren't going directly to the fans via the internet...
All of this new stuff that's happening is the next step. The most important developments are those where the artists have the resources to have their visions come to life.

In addition to working as a leader, you've also worked with a lot of other big name artists as a sidemusician. How do you prepare yourself prior to the first rehearsal or gig?
I think one of the most important things we have to do is to get over any kind of jitters we have about it. Being nervous and uptight is a sure way to fail. This means we're not flowing with our own gifts and are being self-conscious instead of being there to serve what is best for the music and for that situation. You have to be relaxed and have a commitment to "forward the project," whatever that requires. You have to remember that you wouldn't have been offered the job if someone didn't think you had something to contribute.

Why the move to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999?
I couldn't make a living in L.A. The main driver for me to leave was that I was struggling, from a financial standpoint, even though I had gigs and was playing all of the time. I have friends who say, "Sonya, why'd you leave? You were right on the edge of making it really big." I just didn't feel like I was at my best musically because everyday I was just scraping by, just to pay the rent. There was one other thing I saw that was important in my making the move. L.A. is very youth oriented, especially when it comes to women. When I released Tigress I had just turned 30. My record label, on all of the promotional materials, said I was 28. I saw the writing on the wall. I wasn't allowed to be 30 and be marketable. That was always in the back of my mind. I knew I would stay in L.A. as long as there was forward motion in my career, but after Discovery changed direction, moving towards singer/songwriters and dropped my option, I said, "I think I've gotten the best out of this town." I also wanted to live somewhere where my daily quality of life would be wonderful, and I would still be able to grow and mature not just as a musician but also as a person. It has to be okay to get better with age.

I wonder what American society has come to when we have to have DIVA, or the Montclair Women's Big Band, in order for women to find a place to work in a big band setting. Not that these aren't wonderful groups, because they are. Here we are at the beginning of the 21st century and there are women picketing the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra because there is no female representation, no women musicians in the group. You've faced gender discrimination, you just related an instance. I know there are young women saxophonists who read this magazine and I was wondering if you had something you could say to them about how you face and deal with gender discrimination?
Almost every time I do an interview this area comes up, and this points to the fact that this is a problem that is still relevant. When you interview other musicians I'm sure there is no longer much point in talking about their race. Certainly when the average guy musician gets interviewed there isn't a great point made about race, although there was a lot about that in the past. Today there is still a lot of talk about gender. The day when that's not the main topic is the day we know the issue has shifted.

I love playing with the Montclair Women's Big Band, and there were some wonderful liner notes to accompany the CD where KCSM's Melanie Berzon commented on the history of the female big band. We know, and you know, there have been many wonderful female players for a long time, but female big bands were popular at a time when there weren't many male musicians around because they were fighting the war. When the men came back they took those jobs and the opportunities for women dried up. I don't know what's going to make the difference. My advice, for young women, is to be the best musician you can be. The best way we, as women, can make a difference changing this prejudice, if there is one, is to be a great musician, have integrity, be professional and be someone others want to work with. Have it be about the music. Try not to be catty and competitive with other women. We have to be supportive of other women as well. We fall prey to the standards of society that say, "How a woman looks is more important than how she plays." We need to take care of how we look and be professional in our presentation, but it can't be a substitute for musicianship. We as women need to be responsible for that. I now have a bit of history to look back upon in my own career, and there have been a lot of really supportive men or I would not have gone as far as I have or had the experiences I've had. It's not all a harsh world for women. We don't have to just band together.

There are certainly a lot of men who do appreciate what we have to offer musically. There are also other opportunities for us to create what we want to do. One thing we can do is to be responsible for our own marketability. I've had an advantage in that I am unique, and that gives me an edge in marketing myself. It may not help me out with other musicians, but it certainly helps me out in getting a gig when I'm speaking with club owners and agents, who are going to be looking at the marketability of someone who is unique and musically appealing. For most of my career I've been a leader with my own band and the one getting the gigs. I've also hired fabulous musicians to work with me. I've had a lot of opportunity to have my music heard by working in this manner, rather than relying on other male musicians to hire me. Some of them will hire me, however some of them won't. They'd rather hire their buddy. That too makes sense. It's all in networking.

Your Supper Club recording features you finding new ways through standards. How do you approach tunes which have been played by a lot of performers, and yet still make them your own?
That is the most important thing, to me, about my playing. The background on that recording is that I got that record deal after I moved to Northern California. That label, Sugo Music, is the number one label in the gift market. They produce concept albums that create a certain mood. I was called upon to do this CD as dinner music. They wanted well known standards, nothing too fast, nothing too outside, and that's what I did. I really enjoyed making that recording. I think it's important to honor the melodies. The melodies are the most important part of those songs and sometimes people take the melodies so far out the music is almost unrecognizable. I love the melodic and harmonic depth of that music, and coming from my contemporary jazz inclination I wanted to keep the music listenable for the general public.

Here's how I approach standards. I know there are people with more chops in that style of music than I have. My abilities are, perhaps, in a different area. But what's most important to me is that the craft of playing my instrument is a means to an end. My chops are not the end in themselves. The end is expressing myself, having something to say, expressing a mood and putting across a feeling. My main drive is to inspire people, so when I play a standard that's what I want to do. I dig down and express something that is true to me and when that authentic feeling and mood comes across, hopefully the end result is that people are inspired and moved by that.

When you go and do clinics at schools, is there an overriding principal you like to leave the students with?
It's pretty much what I said earlier. Learning our craft is important and the reason we want to do that is to be able to express ourselves well. Our music is a means of self-expression, and for kids this is even more important. There may be no other place in their life where they can express themselves... If you think of our craft in terms of human development, we don't want to express ourselves as if we're a two year-old with one word sentences, or like a seven year-old with simple ideas, or like a teenager being dramatic but immature. We continue to develop our craft as a musician so the ideas we express are more fully developed and mature with more nuance. We can't forget that the end result is not to show someone how many scales we know. I can only listen to about two minutes of that before I go, "Good, you woodshedded a lot, now what do you have to say?"

None of us wants to hear twenty years of an artist's life in two choruses.
You're absolutely right. The other point for students is to have integrity and be the best person you can be in every situation. Give every situation 100 percent, go in with a good attitude and do your best. You never know who's listening.

When I started writing for 'Saxophone Journal', about five or six years ago, I was amazed at how many of my friends were subscribers. Not just the professional musicians, but a lot of friends I have who are vocational saxophonists. I saw in your teaching philosophy posted on the web an idea which really struck a chord in me, because I have so many friends who play for fun and that it's not their means of making a living. You write, "Most people are not studying to become professional musicians. The point of lessons is to enjoy learning to play music and gain a sense of accomplishment."
This has come through to me after teaching private students for over twenty years. When I first got out of college I was trying to create a motivation in my students like the motivation I had. I was very frustrated when I realized I was just babysitting these kids for thirty minutes while their parents went shopping. The kids weren't interested and they didn't practice. I thought about how much of a waste of time this was, yet I needed to keep teaching because I had made a commitment to myself that the way I was going to pay back my college loans was through teaching students.

Over the years I developed more as a teacher and came to alter my philosophies in a way that supported me doing that well and making a difference in my students. What I saw was that learning music has many benefits for people even though it's a very difficult pursuit as a profession. Truly, not many are going to make it, and not many are ever encouraged to pursue it. I certainly was not encouraged to take on music as a career. So why study music? Why try to develop an ability on an instrument? This is an obvious question. It gives us enjoyment and enriches our lives. It makes us more well-rounded human beings and gives us an opportunity to enjoy art. It gives us a means to express ourselves. Having that as the foundation of my teaching brings a whole different attitude to the setting when I'm there with a student for 30 minutes. In the bigger picture, music is just a means for us to communicate about what it is to be a human being and an opportunity to be an inspiration, as a person in the world, to this other human being sitting next to us.

Being that you are an amazing multi-woodwind instrumentalist, what is your opinion regarding how and when woodwind students should begin to double?
I don't think it should be a "should". Each musician has their own goals. I think it's fantastic if someone is motivated to double, and I think it's fine for them to do that as early as they're interested. I actually started on clarinet. I wanted to play saxophone, but it was unusual for women to play sax at that time. The instrument was rather expensive to get a hold of and rent, so my parents suggested I start on clarinet. I played that for a year, but the whole time I wanted a sax. After a year my mom found a saxophone I could borrow from a friend of her's, and that's how I got started. But I had an attitude that, "I will not play clarinet." This was difficult for me because I didn't want to take on the clarinet as a double, but I finally did in college, at Berklee. There was a requirement at Berklee that I would have to also be proficient on flute and clarinet. I had actually started on flute in high school. I was interested in it then and was doing some doubling in the high school big band. Today I have students who are 12 years-old and have played their main instrument for a year or two and are already taking up another one and doing very well. I don't think there is a limit at what time you can add another instrument. Many of my students are also taking piano, which I also did. There are certain ages when we're young, it seems to me to be around middle school, when kids have time, energy and interest and tend to be quick to pick things up. I think it's fine to give them the opportunity at that point and support them.

As a performer you're a first call musician in the Bay Area, you have a thriving private studio, you do lots of clinics and workshops all the time and work with other artists in addition to being a leader. As busy as you are, do you still find time to practice?
Not as much as I'd like. I definitely do a lot of scale patterns and licks in all 12 keys. For me it's important to get my fingers around all twelve keys so I'm ready for anything. Generally when I'm performing there are some keys that don't get touched on very much, but playing in all 12 keys with equal mastery still strengthens my playing. I also really love to sight-read music. I'll read through Lenny Niehaus's Advanced Jazz Conception For Saxophone exercises. They are not too easy. I also still do the play-along CDs to get my chops up for improvisation. Given more time I focus on studying solo transcriptions and memorizing tunes.

How does the compositional process work for you?
It's not something I do all the time, mostly just when I'm preparing for a project. One of the things composition requires from me is that I become isolated. I don't want to have interruptions or have the phone ring and lose that wisp of inspiration. There has to be a sense of timelessness for me. I can't go, "Okay, I've got 30 minutes, I need to write a song." I need to be relaxed and feeling creative and I like to do it at night. I think there's a sense of endless time at night. It's also quieter and the phone doesn't ring as much. Generally I'll start out with a harmonic progression and develop it on piano. Then I'll improvise over it on sax to come up with a melody, but it's not always that way. Sometimes I'll be blowing on sax, come up with something I like and then add chords to it. But generally speaking I start with a feel and a harmonic progression first.

As far as phrasing goes, do you find yourself influenced more by singers or instrumentalists?
In the past I've been more influenced by singers, because I feel the saxophone is my voice, but I've also studied a lot of other players, and not just saxophonists, but also guitarists and trumpeters. It's hard to say now what influences me more, because I've listened to so many artists over the years. I think, again, that melody is the most important thing, and singers are more likely to focus on that. Instrumentalists, because we can, tend to take the melody further and further away from where it was by embellishing it more and more. There is nothing wrong with that, I just think it's important to not forget that it's the melody that connects with the audience. They can only be wowed by technique for so long, they need to have something they can hum along with, grasp, hang on to or understand.

Another analogy I like to make is that sometimes people will go to the dictionary and learn a bunch of big words and then they try to fit all of those words into one sentence. That's how some people play. They learn a bunch of great licks and then try to get them all in within one or two choruses. If the listener can't understand what is being said, if a reader doesn't understand what the big words mean, then what's the point because nothing is being communicated.

What advice do you have for young musicians who are thinking of making music a career?
If music is your absolute passion, then go for it! Give it your best shot and don't give up. First, you do need to learn your craft. I just read a really great quote. Daniel J. Levitin, a Berklee graduate who became a neuroscientist wrote a book entitled This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. He wrote that studies indicate that 10,000 hours of practice are required to reach the level where one can be called a world-class expert in any area of endeavor. "In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals and what have you, this number comes up again and again. 10,000 hours is roughly equivalent to three hours a day or 20 hours a week over 10 years... No one has yet found a case in which true world class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems to take the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know in order to achieve true mastery." Of course, there is more to this. This doesn't explain why some people practice 10,000 hours and don't progress as far as one might expect. Others practice a lifetime now and then, in other words they dabble at it but there is no passion and commitment. The essence of this is that even people who come into this world with a gift for music can not achieve mastery unless they have put in the time, at least 10,000 hours of practice. For everything I've just said about not simply showing off your chops, I do think it's important for us to learn our craft well and to put in the time that's needed to do that. The more we put into something the more we get out of it. But it's also important not to stop with that. Why do we have these skills? Why have we developed this craft if it's not to inspire and communicate with others, and express ourselves in a way that makes a difference for people?


Yamaha Custom Z (82Z) with Claude Lakey 7*3 hard rubber mouthpiece, Bari Hard plastic reeds and a Rovner Eddie Daniels I ligature.
Curved Unison S200 Series with Claude Lakey 7* hard rubber mouthpiece, Bari Hard plastic reeds and a Rovner Eddie Daniels l ligature.
Yanigasawa with stock hard rubber mouthpiece and ligature and Bari Medium plastic clarinet reeds trimmed to fit.
Armstrong 80E open-holed flute with gold lip plate.
Bundy with Buffet stock mouthpiece, Olegature ligature and Bari Medium plastic reeds.
WX5 Yamaha Midi Wind Controller
with Yamaha VL-50-m virtual acoustic tone generator and Yamaha MU100 tone generator.


As A Leader

  • The Supper Club (Sugo Music/Tambourine, 2000)
  • Tigress (Warner Music Discovery/Musiccraft, 1993)
  • Secret Lover (Saja Productions, 1989)
With Others
  • With Bermudez Triangle
    Original Songs (Bermudez Triangle Music, 2001)
    Are The Women Dancing? (Bermudez Triangle Music, 2000)
  • With The Curious Walk
    The Curious Walk (Curious Music, 1986)
  • With Ali Khan
    Zindagi (City Of Tribes, 2000)
  • With Stan Keiser
    Secret Island (Clarity Records, 1994)
  • With Christopher Lukert
    Midi Life Crisis (The Orchard, 2000)
    More Than Dreams (Christo Music, 1990)
  • With Will Miller
    Songs From My Irish Rovings (Calabasas Records, 1997)
  • With Montclair Women's Big Band, Ellen Seeling Director
    Montclair Women's Big Band (Pivotal Records, 2005)
  • With Jenny Reed
    I Didn't Expect It (Jennyhasit Music, 2000)
  • With Various Artists
    Cosmopolitan � Jazz & Cocktails (Sugo Music/Tambourine, 2002)
    Yamaha Presents Contemporary Jazz (Delta Entertainment, 1998)
    Southwest Holiday (Fervor Records, 1990)

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