Grammy award winning bari saxophonist performs with MTHS jazz ensembles

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Grammy award winning bari saxophonist performs with MTHS jazz ensembles

Professional bari saxophone player Gary Smulyan performs alongside MTHS Jazz 1.

Professional bari saxophone player Gary Smulyan performs alongside MTHS Jazz 1.

Professional bari saxophone player Gary Smulyan performs alongside MTHS Jazz 1.

Professional bari saxophone player Gary Smulyan performs alongside MTHS Jazz 1.

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Six time Grammy award winning bari saxophonist, Gary Smulyan, joined Jazz bands 1 and 2 for a special performance on Thursday, May 21.

Jazz 2 started off the night alone playing “Groove Merchant” and “I got Rhythm,” then teamed up with Smulyan on their third song, “The Bari Thought of You.”

“I got Rhythm” featured solos from Max Knibby on Tenor Sax, Michael Baisch on Trombone, and Dylan Rajah on Alto Sax. As implied by the name, “The Bari Thought of You” highlighted the baritones of the band, featuring a back and forth solo between Smulyan and Bari Saxophonist Selena Williams.

“Playing with Gary gave me an opportunity to put myself out there and break my chains. It was one of those experiences that excited you to the point where it was overwhelming. Being on stage with him changed how I approach performing and I now feel in control of the anxiousness that comes with soloing. I felt like I was almost a professional,” Williams said.

Jazz 1 followed up, playing “Salutation,” “Body and Soul,” “Time for a Change,” “Haitian Fight Song,” and “Ray’s Idea,” all with the accompaniment and partial conduction of Smulyan. The band was also accompanied by professional Trumpet player, Thomas Marriott.

“[Smulyan] was encouraging the students to do things that weren’t in the chart on the stage as they were playing,” band teacher Darin Faul said. “There was a lot more improvisation during the performance than when we rehearsed it, which was really cool.”

This was not Smulyan’s first time playing with a high school band.

“For me teaching is a very important part of my life. I had so many great teachers when I was younger, being able to teach others has been almost a way to give back to those who helped me out so much,” Smulyan said. “I’ve spent a lot of time at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and they’ve all helped me grow. The thing that’s great about music is that we all learn from each other.”

Faul was informed of Smulyan’s appearance in Seattle by Marriott, who offered to set up the collaboration and was later asked to play with the band to fill a missing trumpet part.

“I always feel that having guests come and play with the students is really important. Gary, he is really the top. For the students to hear about how he made it and understand that it is possible is really important,” Faul said. “I also feel that whenever we have a guest, the students play better. They feel pushed a little bit. If you are the best in the band, you don’t have anyone pushing you to play better. If you have someone like Gary next to you, you feel inspired to push yourself beyond your limits.”

Smulyan has been in a variety of bands throughout his life, including the Wood Herman Band, the Mel Lewis Big Band, the Dave Holland Big Band and Octet, and the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band. Today he is deemed the best Baritone Saxophonist in the world by the jazz community and critics alike.

Smulyan has been interested in music since a very young age. He started out playing Alto Sax and it was not until he was invited to play with the Woody Herman Band that he picked up the Baritone.

“It was just one of those things…when I put the saxophone in my mouth, I felt like ‘wow, this is my thing. This is really fun,’” Smulyan said.

At the end of the night, everyone went home impressed and satisfied with their performance, but Faul encourages that more people take advantage of the concerts and guests Terrace hosts.

“Tonight went great, but it would be nice if we saw some new faces. Even if you aren’t a jazz fan and don’t think the music is great, seeing people so passionate about music kind of broadens your horizons a little bit. But overall, it was an enthusiastic crowd and I was very impressed with the performance,” Faul said.

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