Student Spotlight

Alex Condotti, Alto Saxophonist

Interview by Terre Lee

Pacific Collegiate School, grade 12
Photo Credit: r.r. jones

Alex Condotti has been involved with Kuumbwa’s Jazz Education programs for over five years now and is currently in his third year playing saxophone in the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band. Through music education at Kuumbwa, he has learned about inspiration, friendship, teamwork, and a discipline to practice. Alex discovered his love of saxophone in second grade and now at seventeen, he is really beginning to make a name for himself!

Our interview was a great time, engaging in thoughts on music in the community, favorite artists, and imagination. Here is some of the conversation. ~Terre Lee

Alex, how do you think playing in the honor band has helped in different aspects of your life?
“It’s been really helpful. I’ve had people who are all advanced level players to learn from and interact with them in a group setting. It’s just fun to play with other people to share ideas. It’s also fun to meet people who also like jazz. We can hang out on weekends and play, while also getting better.”

It’s obvious Kuumbwa fosters your interest in jazz. How about your classmates at school? Do you think jazz is a part of their lives?
“Umm, not many. I know that me and Keshav (also in the Honor Band) have been trying to get people into music and jazz, just by showing people cool songs or sending each other stuff. In the band, we send a lot of tracks to each other.”

How do you share your interest in jazz with your classmates? Do you play for them?
“I’ll show them a track that’s usually more jazz influenced- like hip hop jazz- or if they like funk I’ll show them some Herbie Hancock or fusion.”

Why do you think music is valuable?
“It’s just a different avenue. It’s important for people to expand musical horizons- it’s not that they have to listen to jazz; it’s just what I like, and what I can share.”

Playing in the honor band seems like something that shapes your educational experience. Do you think it will shape what you major in in college?
“As of right now, I’m not sure what I’ll major in. I’m considering doing a technical major like engineering, and minoring in music to continue playing.”

Who do you listen to these days?
“Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett and Joshua Redman…a lot.”

Do you have a favorite sax player?
“Sonnie Rollins. His style is a rougher, kind of unfocused sound, with a lot of soul.”

What inspired you to play?
“My first jazz record in 2nd grade. After I heard that I wanted to play saxophone…the cd was ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis.”

When did you start taking lessons?
“I started taking saxophone lessons in the 5th grade. Before that I was a classical pianist. I am still in classical piano lessons.”

Did you have a good teacher?
Dale Mills was the teacher I first started to improvise with. After that I did Kuumbwa Jazz Summer Camp pretty much every year, and that helped a lot too. I started in the middle school camp, where I really learned how to play with other people, and I’ve done camps ever since.

If you had to trade instruments with anyone in the band which instrument would it be?
“I like the bass!”

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