What drew you to the saxophone?
I didn’t have a particular interest in the saxophone. I have, however, always been attracted to the magic that happens on stage. The saxophone is only a tool, (even an excuse) for me to go on stage and feel that magic while connecting with the audience. I think I truly began to love the saxophone when I finally found myself expressing who I truly was. If I hadn’t come up with PEDROSAXO, I would have quit. The reason behind this is not the music itself, but my personality; I always need to grow and find new paths with everything I do in my life.
What is your classical background and what were your studies like at the Conservatory of Granada (Spain)?
I was trained as a classical and contemporary saxophone player (I am aware of the ambiguity of such terminology). My two saxophone teachers, José E. Plaza and José Miguel Cantero, taught me the cornerstone of a successful career: honesty and perseverance. They were very strict about the technical side of the saxophone, analyzing the why and how of the beginning of a sound, and the life of a sound and the death of sound. That teaching was essential for me to have the tools in order to develop my own style of playing and composing.
What classical influences do you have/draw inspiration from?
We are all influenced whether we want it or not. If I have to say from what or whom I was influenced, I think it would be from old traditional music from different countries in the world and movie and videogame soundtracks. Describing atmospheres is my passion. Listening to soundtracks like “The Last Guardian” a PS4 game, or “Interstellar” the movie soundtrack, really touches my core. My dream is to be part of a project like that in the future.
Why Paganini Caprice No. 5? Were there other experiences playing this piece?
My teacher José E. Plaza gave this piece to me when I was 15 years old. He knew I LOVED challenges. He knew I wasn’t able to play it yet, and he knew that I also LOVED that. Challenges are one of my secret passions. I have tried to play this piece (the way I play it in the video) four times in my life. I have been close to injuring my tendons several times due to the speed at which I wanted to play it. To top that off, using circular breathing and double tonguing at the same time at that speed was…interesting.
I have traveled to many countries in the world, and people love my playing and style, something I am really grateful for, but I have been asked several times whether I was able to play “classical,” “normal” and other adjectives trying to define patterns and approaches we feel comfortable with. I have to be honest with you, if I were to see someone playing the saxophone the way I play it, I would ask him of her the same kind of questions.
Now that I am adjunct professor and am introducing myself to the academic world (there are other universities showing interest in my teaching style as well) I think it was time for me to play this piece the way I always wanted to. There is no better way to let others know about something than showing them with proof, instead of using words. I think this video says it itself and it is a good reference for everyone in the future about my knowledge of the “classical” saxophone. My contemporary knowledge is obviously due to my style, but my style itself is far from what is considered to be “contemporary music” nowadays. The reason why the video is called “classically trained” is because I wanted to let everyone know that I can teach and perform classical music at the highest level. When I was trained I have worked hard to do so. The fact that I developed my own style and techniques to play the saxophone says a lot about my knowledge of the “classical” and “contemporary” styles. Sir Isaac Newton put it this way: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” I needed to know, dissect, and understand what the masters of the saxophone did in the past and are doing today, before breaking the limits of the instrument and myself to do something completely new and personal.
Now that you’re Adjunct Professor of Saxophone at Middle Tennessee State University, how will you blend both your style of playing and a classical style?
I care so much about my students.... I am a very passionate and hard teacher that I care about my students’ life and life goals. My style of teaching “saxophone coaching” has been a success since I developed it. It pushes students to know themselves and push their limits and find who they truly are. I always talk about life, psychology, the stage… I am VERY HARD on my students (technically and musically) because they are writing their own stories and I want their stories to be special. I am only a guide for them: they are the stars of their lives. I cannot allow them to just walk through a path without knowing the reason why they are walking such a path. When we study the “classical” and “contemporary” repertoire I try to make them see how they can become themselves during the process of doing so. I am open to teach all my techniques and secrets but, before doing do, my students need to open their eyes and accept reality: it only depends on themselves, not on me.
I think the future looks bright for me in respect to the teaching of saxophone and music in the University context in the United States, and this video is going to be essential for it.
Thank you Vandoren!