Name: Jeremy Osterling
Occupation: Music Teacher/Freelance Musician
In second grade I used to watch MTV videos with my mother, and I told her I wanted to play saxophone. In fourth grade, my mother got me to try a saxophone. I did it because I was like, “Hey! I can play an instrument.” Middle school, I joined a private big band with this guy named Reed Garrett. You got to perform all over the country—that’s the reason why I didn’t go to my proms junior and senior year. This made me listen to artists like Duke Ellington.
I did composition in high school with Walter Bordiak. I studied one-on-one composition with Bordiak, too, where I composed and arranged music. He plays at a Monday night jazz band at Arch Street Tavern. My grandfather, Eric Osterling, who was an educator, arranger, and composer, flew me to Florida and I got to study with him for a week.
My first year at Western Connecticut State University, I studied jazz performance for saxophone. It was great, but I ended up switching after my first year to music education and decided to go to graduate school for performance. I was in a jazz orchestra, jazz combos, pep band, and a big jazz band for all four years. There was this group called Frankensax—a saxophone group with five saxophones, two alto saxophones, two baritones, and a full rhythm section—and we’d play music that was arranged from Charlie Parker.
Like many college students, I needed money. I worked as a saxophone teacher at a music store in New Milford. Some of my professors said that I was good at teaching, so I started teaching at Silas Deane Middle School where I taught classical across the music spectrum: piano and guitar for a couple hours every day. It was a part-time job, and a good experience after college.
Right now, I’m a part of the Sharp 5 Jazz quintet, the Stanley Street Big Band at Central Connecticut State University and The Rob Zappulla Big Band at Casa Mia at the Hawthorne.
The tenor saxophone I have is the Yamaha YAS-875EXII Custom Series Alto Saxophone in Black Lacquer. It was recommended by a professional saxophone player and a Yamaha performing artist, Ken Nigro, who was oddly someone I saw in concert when I was fourteen. I had an opportunity to be a member of the saxophone section of a big band with him. He blew my mind.
I was in Washington D.C. playing a gig in high school and we were opening at Louis Armstrong’s museum. The night before the concert we stopped at a jazz club—the HR-57 club—but I didn’t have a neck strap. At the top of the bar above where they put all of the alcohol, there was a saxophone, a stand, and a neck strap. The owner agreed to let me borrow it. He said, “Aw man, I’ve done that before” because he was also a saxophone player. Now, I always make sure I have my neck strap.
I carry the Otto Link metal and the Otto Link rubber mouthpiece, and I have someone who opens the mouthpiece and changes the inside, so it matches what you want for sound.
When I use the hard rubber mouthpiece, I use ligature that fits the mouthpiece, and sometimes I have to tighten it around and around. I either use one of those generic, crummy, normal mouthpiece ligatures that are made out of brass. Or for a sharper sound, I use the Francois Louis ligature.
The reeds I need to use are ones that are playable already. I need ones that are new in case the humidity in the room changes the reeds.
If you’re playing in a large band, you won’t be able to hear your own section. Sometimes I’ll plug out one ear to hear the brass over everyone in the saxophone section. My section usually sits on the right side, next to the drums to plug out the drums, with the symbols and the brass section behind me. I do this in order to hear myself when playing in a big band, but also to save my hearing and be able to hear the rest of the section.
I have a cleaning cloth that I use to wipe down my instrument for any fingerprints when I’m playing. It [the saxophone] spits spots that come out of the keys and makes spots on your instrument. Your saliva could eat away at it so it’s important to wipe down your instrument.
If I lose my contacts while playing, I can’t see anything. I used to have glasses, but it’s hard to look down through your glasses and lean over while keeping your saxophone at the right angle, and not tilt your head down which changes your embouchure stance. I wear contacts to use my peripheral vision, but then if you lose one, you’re like, “Crap, I can only see with one eye,” so I bring it just in case.
I tune to get a general sense. If we are playing in a lounge or a restaurant, someone’s going to have an electric keyboard, so I know the tuner is going to be in tune with his instrument automatically. If you don’t have a tuner, you could ask the pianist to play a tuning pitch. The tuner is useful for both reasons, but usually you know where you are on your mouthpiece.
Abigail Murillo is staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine
Headline Image Credit: Jeremy Osterling