Connor Anderson, Lead Alto for the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars

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If you got a chance to check out the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Combo or Orchestra at the 2012 Festival, you know their lead alto player, Connor Anderson, is a musical force to be reckoned with. His chops and style show a maturity far beyond his years, and he can only grow as a musician. I got a chance to speak with Connor about his time at the 2012 Berklee High School Jazz Festival and his musical life.

How was your experience at the festival?

This was the first experience I’ve had of having so many opportunities to play and improve so much. Being on the road definitely inspires everyone to play at their best, and as a lead player I love when I am backed by a happening band. It’s not every day that I get to experience this sort of “jazz overload,” but I have to say that that is what gets me excited about great festivals.

Did you see any performances at the festival? What did you think?

I did. I watched the awards ceremony for each bracket and saw each group perform their best songs.

Connor Anderson

I remember one group, I think they were from New Jersey, but I remember listening and wishing that my local high school bands sounded like that. It’s easy to tell when a group has put in the time and effort of listening to the great music of the past to understand where the music comes from. Those groups tend to be the ones winning the festivals.

How did you like Boston?

Boston was awesome! From what I heard, it was warmer than usual, but for me it still felt really cold. I’m from California, though. The people were extremely friendly, which is nice when I am new to a place.

I played four times at the festival, and also at a local club in Cambridge, the Lilypad. That night I went to Harvard University and jammed with some Berklee students and a Harvard student. My time was mostly taken up with going from place to place, but I had a few hours on my first day to sit in on a Biology lecture at MIT. That was fun.

What did you think of your own performances?

As I mentioned earlier, I was excited to hear my band take off on this tour. With weekly rehearsals it is hard to get a band to have its own vibe, but this period of travel really helped with that. I feel like the SFJAZZ combo did an incredible job; I could sense that everyone was adding their own emotions and energy to the music. Also, the audiences seemed really into the music that we played and gave me a good sense of why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s the coolest thing when people dig your music.

What are your plans for the future?

I will be attending Stanford University this fall and I intend to study saxophone from an outstanding classical saxophone instructor. I will be majoring in Mechanical Engineering as well.

Who do you listen to?

I try to listen to as many things as I possibly can. I avoid sticking with the same stuff all the time, because frequently when I start listening to different things, it opens my ear to new sounds or styles that I haven’t paid close attention to before. As an alto sax player, of course I love Cannonball and Trane, but I try to listen to literally everything I can, from, like, Bob Marley to Robert Glasper. I have this habit where I will remove all the music on my iPod, and replace it with stuff that I’ve never heard in my life. This has been a great way for me to listen as I drive places and keep up on the listening side of my jazz life. I guess at some point I’ll have to start over, though, when I run out of songs…

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          February 8, 2014