Vandoren Artist Profile | Doug Masek

Date Posted: May 03, 2018

Not registered? Create account
Forgot Password?
Or continue with

When did you decide you wanted to be a musician?

When I was 10 years old. My parents were both musicians. My whole heritage goes back to Prague/Czechoslovakia. Mostly, all of my relatives were musicians, including my mother, sister, and my father, who was a professional musician. I came home from school one day and I told my mom that I’d like to play an instrument. She said “Sure, what do you want to play?” I told her cello. She said “How about saxophone?” I said OK!

What did they (your parents) play?

My father was a saxophonist and clarinetist, but his primary instrument was piano. He later went on to study piano at the Oberlin Conservatory, but decided he wanted to be in a jazz musician and left Oberlin after two years. My mother and sister were both pianists.

Why cello?

I just loved the sound of the cello. When I play the saxophone, I think cello. I have this sensuous cello sound in my head I like to transfer to saxophone.

Who are some of the most influential people in your life?

My father was a big inspiration to me. I was always amazed at how wonderfully he played the piano and how he never least I never heard him practice. I would go hear him on a gig, and he sounded great every time I came home from college. He just kept getting better and better! Maybe I was really just starting to appreciate his playing, but he was a huge influence. All of my teachers .... undergrad through graduate school, influenced me in different ways. I studied privately with Vincent Abato in New York on both saxophone and clarinet...he had a profound influence on me.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a musician and how have you overcome them?

Finding work! *Laughs* I found early on that it is pretty much a constant hustle, especially playing concert style saxophone. In my early years, I was playing in jazz bands and small combos, but I really wanted to play classical saxophone. I found it was challenging because for one thing, there weren’t many classical saxophones around making a living. I found that I had to find my own niche, putting together my own promotional packet, pictures, trying to get reviews. It was a real challenge for me. I loved it! These days it is much easier to put things together...back in my day we had fax, snail mail, and land line calling!

I was also fortunate that I played a lot of clarinet that helped pay the bills – playing in orchestras and such. It’s a constant hustle being a free-lance musician, and to be able to make a living performing.

I tried the agent thing for a while and found it didn’t work well for me. I found that I needed to have control of my own career, and agents always wanted my contacts that I worked so hard to get on my own. I have been fortunate to travel the world and I did it on my own.

You have a tour coming up in South Africa. How do you prepare for a tour like that?

The tour I’m doing is going to be with piano. So, finding the pianist that could go over for 2+ weeks or so to do the tour with me is definitely a plus. It turns out I will be joined by my colleague from UCLA, Neal Stulberg. In all of the years I performed in South Africa, starting in 1989, I always used South African pianists, which required me to go over early to rehearse. I will be performing in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Potchefstroom, Stellenbosch, and Cape Town.

Additionally, I will be guest performer/clinician for the South African National Saxophone Symposium. This July event will take place in Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. I will be doing Master Classes and Clinics, in addition to performing.

Do you have any memorable performances or ones that stick out in your mind?

For me, the last performance I give is etched in my mind. That to me it is the most memorable. If I think back on all of the performances I’ve done, and places I performed throughout my Paris, Stockholm, Barcelona, Madrid, Tokyo, Jakarta, Bali, Seoul, Singapore, NY, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, etc... For me, there’s nothing like the last one! I get excited to perform. The last one is always my favorite, no matter where it is! It could be in the gymnasium of an elementary school! To me, that’s what it’s all about. For that moment, the last moment and place I’ve played.

Is there a necessity for saxophonists to be versatile in multiple woodwinds?

I was fortunate that my father encouraged me along the way that playing the clarinet was really important if I wanted to pursue a music career, because there are more opportunities for clarinet than concert-style saxophone. When I was in my tenth year of my life, my father got me what I thought was the best teacher I could’ve had at that time. He played great saxophone and was a superb clarinetist. He was a student of Robert Marcellus on clarinet, but he studied saxophone as well. My father got me with someone who could inspire me to play both sides. To this day, I’m still doing a lot of clarinet, but more saxophone.

My clarinet instructors were: Robert Marcellus, Carmine Campione (undergrad school), and Vincent Abato. Their level of playing and achievements was my goal and I wanted to pass them. I knew where they were in their careers, I knew where I needed to be, and what I needed to do to get there. I listened very intently to my teachers and how I could get from point A to point B. I found that studying clarinet really helped my saxophone because of the technical discipline required in the clarinet. (That’s not to say saxophone doesn’t require discipline).

With the saxophone, you can slap down the key and you can hit any part of the key and still get the note. I found that the technical basis of covering holes and being precise on the clarinet really helped my saxophone technique.

In addition, I did receive a MM degree in Woodwinds from Ohio State University, which also helped mold my career and gave me more performance and teaching opportunities.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your life as a musician?

That I’m still playing! I’m in my 70th year so I feel very fortunate that I can still keep it going and keep my reed wet, so to speak. Also, that I still have something to say. My students are a great inspiration to me because I learn so much from them. Hopefully, I can keep helping them find their path, no matter where they go in their lives. If they decide they don’t want to do music, I hope that they can transfer what they learned, the sacrifices they made, and how they pursued learning an instrument into any field they want to pursue. I feel very fortunate.

Subscribe to the We Are Vandoren E-newsletter (WAVE) to receive 4 weekly articles for Performers, Students, and Educators

First name:
Last name:
Search Loading...