The following article is part of our Student Spotlight series, which highlights the stories and experiences of Real School students and their families.
Leighann Hodgkins recently sat down for an interview with Andover Real School saxophone student Jesse Goldman. Jesse shared his favorite experiences playing music, how he became the first student of Andrew Clark's to make the Massachusetts All-State Symphonic Band, and also how many instruments he played before finding 'the one' (spoiler alert... he tried piano, guitar, and clarinet before the sax!)
Jesse is in his senior year at North Andover High School in North Andover, MA.
Leighann: I'm here today with Jesse Goldman, who is a student at our Andover location. Jesse studies saxophone with Andrew Clark, our Director of Woodwinds Instruction. How are you?
Jesse: I'm alright, how are you?
Leighann: I'm very good! It's very nice to have you, thanks for letting the interview you.
Jesse: Yeah, no problem!
Leighann: How long have you been here at Real School with Andrew?
Jesse: I started when it was still the Bradford School of Music before it became The Real School.
Leighann: Oh, cool! So you've been with Andrew for quite some time, then. You're a senior at North Andover High School, right? That's very exciting. I bet you're looking forward to graduating and going off to college?
Jesse: Oh, definitely.
Leighann: Awesome, so what are your future plans?
Jesse: I was originally planning to become a lawyer. But I'm having second thoughts! I might want do music education, maybe pursue music even more.
Leighann: So how long have you been playing?
Jesse: I've been playing for about five or six years.
Leighann: What made you choose the saxophone?
Jesse: I chose the saxophone after I played clarinet for a couple of years in middle school. I thought that clarinet that was kinda lame... no offense to clarinet players out there! It just wasn't for me, so I switched over to saxophone. It wasn't much of a leap since they're both reed instruments.
Leighann: We were chatting a little bit before the interview, and you mentioned that you started playing piano around three years old? That's really young!
Jesse: I started playing the piano at a really young age because my parents thought I had some musical aptitude. But, I didn't stick with it for very long, and then I jumped to guitar for two years before quitting.
Leighann: Oh, wow, so you've played quite a few instruments?
Jesse: Yeah, but I guess I was only good at one!
Leighann: Well, I wouldn't say that. Sometimes, you just find something that clicks with you and speak to you. Finding 'your thing' and being able to craft it and fall in love with it is often a part of the process. Who are the people in your life who have been the most supportive of your musical goals?
Jesse: Definitely, Andrew. Andrew always pushed for me to become the first of his students to make All-State. The level before All-State is called Districts. There's five of them in Massachusetts, and I made Districts last year and this year, so he pushed me to do All-State as well.
Leighann: Very cool! So you're the first student of Andrew's to make the Massachusetts All-State Symphonic Band. What was your process going into that? Did you have to audition, and what kind of pieces did you play?
Jesse: I had to play oboe etudes that have been transcribed for the saxophone. They're kind of 'knuckle busters,' and I didn't think I prepared that well, but....
Leighann: Hey, they obviously thought you did! What a huge accomplishment. That's so exciting! Who are some of your musical heroes, who do you look up to and try to take after?
Jesse: Some of my heroes would be, obviously John Coltrane... the greatest player on my instrument. And Michael Brecker, who is an absolute machine. And a newer guy that just came out, Kamasi Washington. His style is kind of hip hop-ish jazz.
Leighann: So what have been some of your most memorable experiences in music?
Jesse: Probably the times I was able to travel the country. My sophomore year, I went with my high school band to Williamsburg, Virginia, and I got to go to Busch Gardens. And then last year I want to Los Angelos, CA. We went to Disney and performed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. I couldn't imagine going to those places if it weren't for music.
Leighann: So why do you think you've done so well in music?
Jesse: I think I've done well mostly by practicing. I know it's the lamest answer I can possibly give, but, 'practice makes perfect.' That's the ultimate mantra in music.
Leighann: What does your practice routine look like right now, and how is it different since when you were younger? How has it changed?
Jesse: It's changed throughout my musical career. The thing is, I don't really have a routine. Obviously, when I was a kid, I was reluctant to practice. I always wanted to go play video games! Now, I have different point of view on everything. So, I practice more, but it's not really a regimented schedule. I warm up the same way: I make sure my octaves are in tune, I run though major, minor, and chromatic scales, then do some chord exercises.
Leighann: What advice would you give to other aspiring musicians who are looking to improve their skills?
Jesse: I know that this sounds cliche, but... practice. It's the most important thing to getting better. It's kind of a grind sometimes, but what I'd say to those kids is to pick music that you like. Get really hooked on something, but also try to balance it out with all the things that your teacher gives you. Like all the stuff that you need to 'grind' for. And when you're doing that, just think about how good you'll be at playing the music you like.
Leighann: Thank you so much for letting me interview you! It was so nice talking to you and we're very excited to see what the future holds in store!
Jesse: You're welcome! It was a pleasure to be here!
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