You are a well rounded artist in that you play instruments, sing and compose music. Tell us what instruments you play and how you got started playing them.
I play the tenor saxophone and flutes (piccolo, c flute, alto & bass flutes)… I also perform oftentimes on the soprano and alto sax.I first started playing the flute at the age of 12 and I was given a mouthpiece for a saxophone but I thought it was for a clarinet. I went to my middle school band instructor and asked if I could try this new mouthpiece on one of the clarinets and that’s when he told me it was actually a saxophone mouthpiece (for alto). I smiled and asked if I could try an alto out and he gave me a fingering chart and told me about all of the possibilities of learning and playing all of the woodwinds. So I would spend every lunch period trying out flutes, saxophones, clarinets and I just fell in love with the alto. Once he had a vacancy in the jazz band, he gave the alto chair to me and I started officially playing saxophone and flute.
I switched to tenor when I was 14 because I was offered a scholarship to attend Queens College Center for Preparatory Studies in Music (CPSM) on saxophone for their jazz program. Their alto chairs were filled but they had one vacancy on tenor and ironically my family had a tenor that was unused for 30 years in the closet. Once I entered the program, I stuck with tenor.
Where and how did singing come in?
My mother used to play all kinds of music around the house when I was a child. I would hear Pops (Louis Armstrong), Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker and so many others. My dad played a lot of Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. So there were a lot of great singers on the radio for me to hear and absorb. I would always try to imitate as close as I could to their voices. Their range was always a challenge for me because I loved how powerful and dynamic their voices were. So I would always try to sound as close and accurate as possible to their phrasing, pitch and style. It wasn’t until I got to college, where I started to officially experiment and sing jazz with the college jazz ensemble, but for a long time I kept singing “under wraps” because I just had a lot of respect for the singers I grew up listening to. I was very shy and wasn’t sure if I could do justice or measure up to them.