Q&A: Doug O’Connor talks about his background in the music industry and presents a visit to the OU
From the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to Carnegie Hall, saxophonist Doug O’Connor shared his talents around the world. On Wednesday, O’Connor will visit the Glidden Hall Recital Hall, 3 Health Center Drive, for performances alongside pianist Jeremy Vigil at 4 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. to celebrate the release of Baljinder Sekhon’s new album, Alchemy, which he helped to create.
The post office sat down with O’Connor to discuss his career, how he endured the pandemic, and his upcoming performance at Ohio University:
The post office: How did you come to music for the first time?
O’Connor: I was a kid of the group. I played music in school groups. In fact, (I) wasn’t interested in it for a while until I took classes. I played the clarinet. I was the worst clarinetist in groups for about four years. Then, about to quit, I started taking saxophone lessons, and it kind of sped up. Well, the more time I spent on it, the more interesting it was. Pretty soon I couldn’t wait to make music all the time. I would say I was probably 14-15 when this was happening, and my parents were really supportive. They encouraged me to study music at school, as well as at university. (I) obtained an undergraduate degree in musical performance. After a sabbatical year, (I) went to get a masters and a doctorate. I love him ever since. It has been a very, very good career. But that’s how I got into it – sucking at clarinet and ultimately choosing an instrument where I could play jazz.
TP: Why is the saxophone your favorite instrument?
O’Connor: I think part of that is because when you’re a kid in middle school bands, if you’re one of the 18 clarinetists, you don’t have that much sense of responsibility or power, whatever. . But if you play the baritone saxophone, you are the only one in the group who has that voice. It’s not just that, there is also the possibility of playing jazz. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but now in hindsight maybe that explains why chamber music is kind of my favorite: one on one part, playing in ensembles, but you get in some way. sort of the best of both worlds. Your voice is lonely in a way. It’s like being a soloist, but you are with others, so you have to play and work as a team also in the kind of very high speed communication that is played in a musical group.
TP: What has been the most rewarding part of being a musician?
O’Connor: I guess relationships with people. This has always been what I liked: you share this intimate experience which is fleeting. He does not exist outside of this moment. It cannot be captured or recorded very well. When you are at a concert, there is something special going on for everyone – hopefully, the audience, but definitely between the musicians on stage when the going. It’s just a thrill. I guess I’m a thrill seeker.
TP: You have already accomplished so much in your career. What do you hope to accomplish over the next five to ten years?
O’Connor: I would like to develop some of my own music. I worked with a jazz saxophone quartet called “Off on Four”. We have a performance with hip-hop artist Kunem. It kind of involves working with Ableton, like hip-hop backing tracks, live loops, and microphones. Imagine four big loud saxophonists, like big bad saxophone jazz sounds in a quartet. Then you have some of the electronic music components that are so popular in music today, like hip-hop. It’s just a fantastic goal. I’m really, really excited about this. So kind of bringing the tech into the realm of live performance my way and being creative with that.
TP: How has the pandemic affected your trajectory or your projects?
O’Connor: Actually, this concert at OU could be my first recital since the start of the pandemic because things were so on hold coming out of the pandemic. Coming back to the recital hall, the intimate space for creating chamber music between two or three people, is something that I really, really missed. I think the pandemic has really got a lot of people thinking about their own lives in these kinds of questioning tones and where they prioritize their resources and their intentions and, for me, it certainly has, too. It gave me a lot of meaning to the idea of ’OK let’s release this recording. Let’s take out the CD. But a lot of that also sets the stage because I feel like what’s about to happen is the big concert wake-up call, where once it’s cool again and everyone feels safe. You’re just going to have this surge of activity. Part of the reason for all this folding during the pandemic is to be prepared: to kind of build my chops, learn more music (and) perfect my art, my artist statements and who I am as an artist. stage in the world.
TP: What can the audience expect during your performance on Wednesday?
O’Connor: There is a bit of a purpose or a theme to this visit. We have an album that just came out on Innova records. I’ve been working with this composer Baljinder Sekhon, who now teaches at Penn State University, for about 10 years since we were in school together. He basically wrote saxophone music and commissioned his music, defending it, recording it, inviting others to play it. Ten years later, we are able to release this album of all of Baljinder Sekhon’s saxophone music. One of the most important tracks on the album has been recorded. Well, two of them were recorded with the help of a faculty member there (at the OU): Jeremy Vigil, an amazing pianist that I got to know while we were playing from time together in Rochester. It’s kind of a CD promotion tour. We celebrate this music. We perform these two tracks on the album, in addition to a brand new one that has just been composed for a combination of tenor saxophone and piano that you don’t see as often in concert halls. It’s nice to have a concept piece for tenor and piano and the complex contrapuntal chamber setting that Baljinder is so good at.
TP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
O’Connor: The “Sonata (of) Puzzles” was sort of the final key to the album, and we had to record it in August of last year, sort of during a really questionable phase of the pandemic. . We did this at Ohio University, and the Ohio University maintenance team were incredibly helpful in a way I want to salute. Basically there is a large boiler room which makes a lot of noise in the recital hall we wanted to record in. A member of the team came over there, closed it properly for us and helped us get a much better recording with less noise. . There is a pandemic, people were a little worried, we wear masks and try not to spend too much time nearby and we even had the help of people from the maintenance staff at the University of the Ohio … help us get a good recording.