Saxophonist Justin Klunk | Teen Jazz Artist

Where did you/do you go to school?

I attended high school at the L.A. County High School for the Arts (LACHSA). While I was there, I mostly focused on jazz and played in their big band and combos. I recently completed my Bachelors degree in Pop Music Performance at USC in May, 2013. At USC, I mostly studied playing in contemporary situations, arranging, business, and promotion.

Do you play any other instruments?

Aside from alto, tenor, and soprano saxes, I do play flute, keys and a bit of background vocals if you want to call that an instrument. I also play bari sax, but the other three have stronger voices than the bari.

Saxophonist Justin Klunk

Located in California, USA

  • Alto, Tenor, & Soprano saxophones

Teen Jazz Artist Badge

[What’s this?]

How long have you been playing?

I’ve been playing saxophone since 6th grade, so it would add up to about 11 years of playing now. I did study piano when I was about seven or eight years old, but I was such a bad student then. I never practiced. It wasn’t until I discovered the saxophone that I really began to like practicing.

Setup/Gear/Manufacturer of Instruments:

I’ll run down my set-up in a list format:

Yamaha YAS-62S Sax
Yanagisawa metal mouthpiece size 7
Vandoren Java (Green) Tenor reeds size 3

Yamaha YTS-82ZS
Vintage SR Tech Fusion Mouthpiece size unknown (roughly 8)
Rigotti Gold Tenor reeds size 3M

Yamaha YSS-62S
Selmer Super Session Mouthpiece size E
Vandoren Java (Red) soprano reeds size 2 1/2

Flute: Haynes Silver Plated Flute

For my pedalboard, I run a Shure PGX wireless mic into it, and a Radial DI out of it.

Why did you begin studying music?

I actually began seriously studying music for a silly reason. The middle school band would go to Knott’s Berry Farm for an annual competition and I just wanted a free ticket to Knott’s. Seriously though, sax was the first instrument I began to practice without anyone telling me to.

The biggest “life-changing” moment when I wanted to pursue music professionally was when I was a member of David Benoit’s Asia America Youth Orchestra. He brought a select few of us to perform with his personal band. After that night, I was hooked! But I realized then how much more I needed to learn, and started looking into private instruction.

What are you doing with music right now?

Right now, I’m currently working on two things; being a solo artist, and being a sideman. With the solo path, I’ve recently released my first CD, “Justin Klunk – EP”, and have begun to make a push for radio airplay as well as play gigs with my band to promote it. I’ve been trying to take as many “featured soloist” gigs to help that cause as well! During May and June of 2013, I was fortunate enough to be a featured soloist with artists like Melissa Manchester and Michael Paulo. That was a ton of fun! So many mentors have been so helpful in getting this project started, that I would be listing them all day if I tried to thank them all.

As a sideman, I recently finished a tour as the saxophonist for Ariana Grande (Pop/R&B singer). It was my first major tour and an amazing experience! Ariana was superb and the band was one of the best bands I’ve played with, so I can’t wait to see what happens with that project! I also gig extensively with a few other singer-songwriters who I think are awesome! The first is this singer named Lara Johnston. She’s more of the pop-rock type of singer. The gig is so much fun because I get to really dive into my pedalboard to try to create some textural sounds with the sax that I wouldn’t be able to on a jazz gig or a horn section gig. Other artists include Annie Dingwall and Barry Harris, and with both of them, I’ve recorded on their albums and performed at GRAMMY Foundation related events.

Who are some of your influences?

In general I listen to a lot of Pop and R&B bands. I grew up listening to Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, and others in that vain. As far as saxophonists, Dave Koz, Cannonball Adderlley, Michael Brecker, Eric Marienthal, Grover Washington Jr., Gerald Albright, and David Sanborn have all been very powerful influences in how I approach the saxophone. I started out listening to a lot of instrumental pop since I related to it more at first, and then I really got into Jazz in high school when I was introduced to the works of Cannonball, Bird, Rollins, Stitt and the other greats!

Who do you/have you studied with?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have studied with teachers who know how to both convey lessons across, and structure lessons with the goal of a career in mind (whether I knew it at the time or not). My past teachers have included George Shelby, Jason Goldman, Rusty Higgins, Andy Suzuki, Frank Fontaine, Eric Patterson, Rick Izumi, and Ted Yamada.

What do you plan on doing with music in the future?

Ideally, I want to become a solo artist on the saxophone and have a long-lasting career with my band. I’ve just started figuring out what my own sound is, and I’m super excited to start pursuing that goal, so we’ll see where it all leads! I still want to continue doing sideman work in different bands regardless of style. Whether I’m playing in a big band, or a pop band, its all fun to me! I mainly just want to be able to play music until I’m too old to play anymore (which Sonny Rollins and Phil Woods are proving that there is never a “too old”).

What are your thoughts on what it takes to be successful as a performer? Do you think any other skills are needed aside from the ability to play your instrument well?

I think honesty is the strongest trait to have in being a successful performer (aside from a solid understanding of your instrument, of course). Being a successful performer can take different meanings depending on the context of what you’re listening to or watching. Take Jeff Kashiwa and Joshua Redman for example. Both of them are phenomenal saxophonists. Jeff would play some ridiculously melodic and complex solos, but at the same time, glide across stage when performing with the Rippingtons. Joshua would dive into some deeply melodic and virtuosic solos as well, but keep his stage movement to a minimum. They are both successful performers, and I enjoy listening to either saxophonist. Why? Because they are both honest performers. They perform in a way that’s genuine to them, and the audience can easily feel that honesty. I try to carry that same mindset when I perform with any group. Have fun, be honest, and own the stage!

What would your advice be for a fellow up and coming, young musician?

I don’t have a whole lot of advice for up and coming musicians, since I am one myself. My only advice is to get out there as much as you can and stay open-minded. As a musician there is no end to the learning. There is always something to improve upon and sometimes you need to play with others and get their perspective to learn what you’re missing. So force yourself to learn and play out even if you don’t feel ready.


Right now I’m endorsed as a JH Audio In-Ear Monitor Artist. I use the JH-7 IEM’s for Ariana Grande and Lara Johnston. The JH-7’s are great! Wonderful, balanced mix, and super easy to pick out any instrument being fed into them.

Where can we find more information?

For more information on me and updates on what I’m doing, you can check out either my main website at, my facebook music page at, or my youtube channel at Also I have a twitter and instagram, both @klunkfunk.

New releases and projects coming up:

As of right now, there are no major releases in the works. My team and I are working on promoting my CD and myself as an artist. Mostly working on trying to get some gigs for my band. Although we’re still working on promoting the first CD, I am writing tunes for the next CD. Hopefully we can start tracking next year. Aside from that, I’ll still be playing with quite a few singers, Ariana Grande being one of them. You can keep track of which singers I’ll be playing with through my social media sites.


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Published on: December 1, 2013

Filled Under: Up and Coming Musicians

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