Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Little Something About the Herb Alpert Foundation

It was a pleasure when I returned home and found this in the mail from the Herb Alpert Foundation. I received one of the residency prizes as one the HAAIA nominated artists. If you're not familiar with it, let me explain how it all works.

Each year, 50 artists and art professionals each nominate 2 artists. Then these 100 nominated artsits are invited to submit work samples. Then (5) three-person panels--in Dance, Film/Video, Music, Theater and Visual Arts--each select one artist for the Award.

Now, when you are submitting your application, they ask if you'd like to be considered for one of their four residency prizes. This is what I received.

Of course, I wanted to win the big "shebang," but I really was honored to have received the Alpert/Ragdale Prize in Music Composition--especially after discovering how heavy the other recipients are. And besides, I've become comfortable with the idea of not getting recognized for my work until after I'm gone. So everything I receive now is gravy!  This is the path that I have chosen.

On the application, they ask us to discuss five vital experiences that have impacted us as creative artists. I thought I'd share those with you.

Vital experience 1:
Back in 1979, when I was in junior high, I  took my first improvised solo during our winter concert. Afterward, I was on a natural high for three days, from the joy I felt from having connected with an audience for the first time. It was at the moment I experienced the real joy of playing music and the true pleasure one experiences when making a personal statement.

Vital experience 2:
In 1983, I began attending the Berklee College of Music. It was the first time I was ever in the company of an abundance of like-minded people--all of whom were much more skilled than myself. Being at Berklee taught me not only the importance of excellence but the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded people. It's because of this experience that I just surround myself with people who inspire me. I'm a firm believer that Inspiration is the match that keeps the creative light of artists' lit.

Vital experience 3:
In 1996, I had an epiphany and decided to switch from being a tenor saxophonist to a soprano saxophonist--an instrument on which I was very inexperienced at playing. My decision disappointed many. It was at this moment I understood what it meant to have any artistic vision. When you have one, you will drop everything that gets in the way of you pursuing it. I lost many friends and colleagues with this decision. But it was at this moment that I transformed from being a musician to being an artist.

Vital experience 4:
In 1999, I was signed by Columbia/Sony, and like many who think outside of the box, I was soon dropped from the label. This experience taught me the importance of not caring about having mainstream success. Being in that toxic environment, I saw the sacrifice that artists have to make if they want to survive in that sea of greed. From that moment on, releasing recordings was just a means of documenting my work--comparable to a visual artist putting his or her vision on a canvas. This way of thinking has actually granted me even more success.

Vital experience 5:
 In 2001, when my working band at the time Global Unity disbanded, I saw the fallacy of having an artistic vision that was so heavily reliant on others. I vowed from that moment that if I ever developed another musical concept or musical vision, it would be all about my innovations and skill sets, not my ability to bring disparate visionaries together. Hence, a 15-year vision devoted to my body of work playing solo-saxophone.

Some might find these words inspirational, or least insight into a different perspective.

Anyway, thanks to the Herb Alpert Foundation, and congrats to all the winners and nominees.

Onward and upward!

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