Andrew Allen | Vandoren Artist Profile

Assistant Professor of Music at Valley City State University

Date Posted: June 06, 2018

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When did you decide you wanted to be a musician, and what drew you to that decision?

I come from a small town in middle Tennessee, not too far from Nashville, and many people in my extended family were excellent amateur musicians playing in church and in country and bluegrass bands. Music, art, books, and education in general were highly valued in my family, so it was always something I was drawn to, and I loved to sing from a very early age. I saw an older student in my elementary school playing this beautiful instrument called the saxophone, and I was completely hooked from day one. I started playing in fifth grade, when I was ten, and by eighth grade, I knew I wanted to make music and share it with other people for a living. By the end of high school, I got hooked up with Phil Barham, who would go on to be my teacher through undergrad, and he did an incalculable amount to shape my drive and desire into something that could carry me into being a professional. I have him and my other fantastic teachers (John Nichol and Clifford Leaman, along with many other less formal mentors), to thank for any success that I now enjoy.

Who have been some of the most influential people in your life?

Certainly my parents and other family members who didn’t bat an eye at my desire to be a musician. Instead, they supported me and encouraged my work, and still do. Next, my fantastic teachers, who I’ve already mentioned, who all acted as surrogate musical parents. After that come my wonderful students, who continue to teach me every day, and my wife, an incredible, driven, passionate flutist and middle school band director.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced as a musician and how have you overcome them?

The occasional bit of frustration and self-doubt can be a problem for musicians of any level. Learning to put one foot in front of the other, avoiding looking too far into the future, and just getting in the shed and working have gone a long way to taking care of those issues for me.

What is one piece of advice you’ve received that has stuck with you throughout your musical career?

One of my teachers expressed this in slightly more colorful language, but to paraphrase: “Just care a whole lot.” Those are words I live by. With so much cynicism in the world, you have to remind yourself that there are a lot of things worth working and fighting for.

What does your practice routine look like on a typical day?

My warm-up is vital to how I play and teach every day. I have a busy schedule instructing classes and giving lessons, but I try to give myself at least an hour of long-tones and other tonal studies before anything else. Then, another three or four hours spread throughout the day are dedicated to technique studies, learning and honing repertoire, and learning jazz tunes. The exact proportion of each depends on what sort of gigs or performances I have coming up.

What is your relationship with reeds? Do you have a break-in process?

Always having a great, consistent, reliable reed is essential. That’s why I love Vandoren. Every day, I have the tool that I need to get a great sound, no matter the gig or style of music. My break-in is fairly simple. I play on each new reed for three or four minutes, slowly, using mid-range scales for the first five days. I then find that I can play them normally after that with no problems.

What is your current Vandoren setup (all saxophones)?

Soprano: Classical—V12 3 Reeds, Optimum SL3 or V5 S27, M|O Ligature; Jazz—V16 2.5 Reeds, V16 S7 Mouthpiece, M|O Ligature

Alto: Classical—Traditional 3 Reeds, Optimum AL3, M|O Ligature; Jazz—V16 2.5 Reeds, V16 A6M (Older, pre-band), Optimum Ligature

Tenor: Classical—Traditional 3 Reeds, Optimum TL3, M|O Ligature; Jazz—V16 2.5 Reeds, V16 T6, M|O Ligature

Bari: Classical—Traditional 3.5 Reeds, Optimum BL3, Optimum Ligature

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