This year Tom Luer was brought in as the new saxophone professor and ensemble and quartet director following the retirement of the previous director.
“I’ve been playing for 30 years. I grew up in the 1980s where there was a lot of saxophone and pop music and I think I just thought it was a cool instrument,” Luer said. “Once I started to learn how to play I just couldn’t stop.”
With him came along another student who was also added to the quartet, which turned its more classical way of playing to a more jazz-like rhythm.
Ashim Osmani, third-year music education major, expressed his thoughts on the recital.
“I really enjoyed it. I love the different textures that were going on there in the piece ‘Suite Hellenique,’” Osmani said. “You could really hear the different styles that were coming out. It got pretty jazzy and I love hearing some swing and jazz in there.
“As a sax player myself, that was really inspirational to see all that hard work come together. I was part of that ensemble, and to see how it came around full circle was really awesome.”
Kingsley Hickman, a fifth-year aerospace engineering major, who was part of the quartet and ensemble, had the opportunity to choose songs that were to be played in the quartet.
Keeping in mind that Luer had come from a more jazz background, Hickman decided to choose songs that would bring out the strengths of the new director and student.
“I picked more jazzy pieces like ‘Diffusion’ and the jazz Pentatonix arrangement of ‘Havana.’ I figured that jazz players would add more jazz into it and wanted to make sure that they’re more comfortable and show their strengths,” Hickman said.
“Since I’m picking the songs this year, I looked into YouTube from years ago, pieces that I had been nerding out to on which sax pieces I liked and chose those.”
Hickman’s song choices went well with Luer’s background as he is also known to be a very good improviser.
“I think he selected a couple of songs that had space built into the arrangements for improvisation by me and Louis, the eldest saxophonist who is also a good jazz improviser,” Luer said.
Luer programmed the recital with thoughts of celebrating particular composers that were important proponents of the saxophone.
Some of these composers mentioned by Luer are Percy Grainger, who was the composer of the first two songs played at the recital, and John Phillip Sousa.
Luer also wanted to diversify the program by adding Latin jazz into the recital as well as a contemporary 20th century rhythm because of his view on how important it is for students to play different styles of music.
Not only does Luer want his students to become better artists, but he expresses his passion for playing the saxophone and the importance of sharing it with his students.
“It’s about cultivating your own passion and then trying to share that with others who are receptive.”
“That maybe they might get the bug to do it themselves someday and that’s what teaching is all about.”
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