"This particular region of North Carolina is blessed with so many wonderfully talented musicians and I like to think that I'm one of them. I work very hard at trying to do a good job, be on time, have a good attitude and help people, especially with my agency. I feel that in today's music world you've got to be 50 percent player and 50 percent business person. Being able to handle your affairs in an orderly fashion, in a timely fashion, in a mannerly fashion is probably the biggest step that you can take in order to further your musical career, even though those things have nothing to do with blowin' on a saxophone. I will gladly sacrifice a little bit of musicality any day of the week in order to hire someone that I know will show up early, be courteous, be well-dressed – somebody that's reputable, somebody that I can trust, rather than somebody that can play Giant Steps in 12 keys at quarter note equals 350!
I'm proud to say that I had the pleasure of playing and hanging out with Wally during my two-year stint at Berklee College of Music in Boston some 20 years ago. I left to grow as a player and Wally stayed for the same reason. We found each other on the internet after all these years. We spoke until our throats were sore and our eyes grew weary getting caught up on the last two decades. The conversation never grew old as Wally has the gift of inserting the perfect colloquialism at just the right moment. I learned quite a bit about the gentleman tenor player to the south. The following are excerpts from our conversations.
Let's start with Berklee. When did you go there and what degree(s) did you get?
I entered Berklee in September of 1980 and completed my course of study in December of 1983. I actually graduated in the Spring of 1984. My degree is a Bachelor of Music in Performance.
I understand there were a lot of good players there at that time. You have mentioned that going to Berklee was an eye-opener. How so? How did it differ from what you were accustomed to living in North Carolina?
Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is not exactly a hot bed of big musical (laughs) enthusiasm, I kind of had this big fish/small pond mentality, you know. And of course having had great success in high school…
How so? What was the measuring stick?
North Carolina is divided into six districts and you'd audition for four years in high school, then you audition for the all -state band. I was real fortunate because I made district band every year and made all-state band two years. This was a concert band. This year (2000-2001) N.C. will be hosting the first all-state jazz ensemble.
I remember at Berklee the players that really knocked me out. The northeast United States was just heavenly laden with talent. I would imagine that compared to North Carolina, the density of the Northeast…It's so much more dense, you've got a whole lot more going on.
You're gonna have 2 percent of the population down here that really enjoys listening to mainstream jazz, whereas up north your probably gonna have 15 percent of the population who really digs that.
….YOU CAN READ THIS COMPLETE INTERVIEW IN MARCH/APRIL 2001 ISSUE OF SAXOPHONE JOURNAL. Contact dornpub.com for subscription information.
Used by permission.
© 2001 by Dorn Publications, Inc.
March/April 2001, Volume 25, No. 4