Name: Roger Greenberg
Years Playing: more than 50 years
Location: Greeley, Colorado
School/Major/Degree: BM Saxophone Performance – Julliard School, MM Saxophone Performance-University of Southern California
ADVICE FOR YOUNG MUSICIAN? CAN YOU HELP EXPLAIN SOME OF THE PROCESS THAT YOU WENT THROUGH TO HAVE THE SUCCESS THAT YOU HAVE HAD IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS?
“Look for a teacher who is not only a great player and teacher, but is also a great role model, someone who will inspire you to play to the best of your ability. You still have to motivate yourself to practice a lot and you need to listen to a great variety of performances on all instruments including voice in all styles from classical to jazz. Especially, don’t overlook the historic greats like Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, and many others. Of course you still want to listen to the modern greats as well. Go to as many live concerts as possible, and don’t be afraid to talk to the performers. If you liked what you heard, tell them. You might be surprised that great players are interested in young players and will often give you some excellent advice. Get involved with playing groups inside school and outside school as well. If possible, attend a music camp where you will meet other players and teachers who will have new and different ideas.”
WHAT PARTS OF YOUR PERSONALITY HAVE YOU FOUND TO BENEFIT YOU AS PART OF NETWORKING AND TOWARDS THE GROWTH OF YOUR CAREER? ARE TRAITS THAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS HAD OR ARE THEY LEARNED CHARACTERISTICS?
“I have always got along well with people. Don’t forget that in musical groups, you’ve got to get along. With some of the big egos in musical performance, this is not always easy. I’ve also always been a hard worker. I don’t know of one person who was a great player who didn’t spend at least part of their life working hard at what they do. By the way, it’s not always easy to get in a lot of practice, especially when your friends are out having fun and you want to be with them. I do know that if you have a great practice session and then go out with your friends for a shorter time, you feel pretty good about yourself. Life is about choices. Pay now or pay later, and maybe later won’t be so good.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DATING WITHIN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
“I married a very fine flutist and we’ve been married for 32 Years. The good part of this is that we understand what the other is doing, and we understand the hours that are involved in practicing and performing, especially the evenings.”
DO YOU ENJOY BEING ON THE ROAD? WHAT PERFORMANCE SETTINGS DO YOU FEEL MOST COMFORTABLE IN – LARGE CONCERTS, FESTIVALS, SMALL CLUBS, ETC.?
“I’ve always loved traveling and have had the good fortune of performing in 46 of the fifty states, as well as numerous foreign countries. The road definitely has its ups and downs, but for the most part it is a great experience. When you play concerts every night with a fantastic group (for me, many of these concerts were with the Harvey Pittel Saxophone Quartet), it is amazing how you become so “up” after a concert. It never seems to get old, making great music with other great musicians. You learn to anticipate so many things and each night becomes different from the last. The only bad parts of the road are the driving time and some very bad hotels. Sometimes we would drive for 8 hours or more and then play a concert. We stayed in some awful hotels occasionally, because there was no other choice. Remember, it’s only the “stars” who get to stay in the fancy places all the time. Eating on the road is another problem. Chicken fried steak at truck stops gets old really fast.”
DO YOU WRITE MUSIC? WHERE DO YOU GET INSPIRATION FOR THE MUSIC THAT YOU WRITE?
“I do not compose, but I do arrangements. This involved no particular inspiration other than hearing a piece and saying that would sound great for saxophone quartet, etc.”
WHO DID YOU STUDY WITH?
Michael Guerra in Philadelphia
Joe Allard in New York while at Juilliard
Harvey Pittel at USC
Jean-Marie Londeix in Bordeaux, France while on Sabbatic Leave from the University of Northern Colorado where I taught for 24 years before retiring to work for P. Mauriat Saxophones.
I also took jazz lessons with several great teachers including Adolphe Sandole in Philadelphia and Jimmy Heath in New York.
YOUR INFLUENCES- HOW DID THEY HELP SHAPE YOU AS A PERSON OR YOUR PLAYING?
“I think that my influences from all different styles of music helped shape my playing style to what it is today.”
ANY NEW PROJECTS COMING UP?
“I have one new CD, “Roger Greenberg Live in Asia” that will be ready soon, and another CD that will follow within the next year.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS MUSICALLY FOR THE FUTURE?
“Since I retired from UNC, I now have the time to do many things that I was not able to do while I was teaching. I spend a lot of time working and traveling for P. Mauriat Saxophones, but I also still do master classes, many of which are in Asia. My calendar for the next 3 months includes trips to San Antonio, Texas, Frankfurt, Germany, and Bangkok, Thailand. I plan to continue doing these kinds of things for at least the immediate future. I’m not ready to hang it up yet.”
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO CONTINUE DOING MUSIC?
“I’ve loved the saxophone since I was seven years old. Once it gets in your blood, it’s there to stay.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DID BEFORE YOUR MUSIC CAREER AS A PERFORMER BECAME AS SUCCESSFUL AS IT IS TODAY?
“I actually started performing professionally at the age of eight with a group in Reading, Pennsylvania called the “Saxotones.” It was an all saxophone group of 8 players who all studied with the same teacher. We played in lots of venues in Reading and we played once a month on the “Children’s Hour” TV show in Philadelphia.”
WHAT WAS YOUR “COOLEST” OR MOST MEMORABLE GIG? WHAT WAS YOUR WORST?
“There were so many in different settings. I have played many times with Symphony Orchestras, with the Harvey Pittel Saxophone Quartet, the Los Angeles Saxophone Quartet, as soloist with bands and orchestras, with nightclub entertainers and singers, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and even with a Rock and Roll Band for a TV show in Philadelphia. That was a regular gig for about a year. I also played with the West Point Band for three years while in the Army. My most memorable gig was playing for a great blues singer at a club in New Jersey when I was about 19 years old. Young right? At the time of doing this, I was so worried that they’d catch me out for being underage, that I nearly decided to buy fake ids which would state the legal age of being allowed to perform in the club, but to my surprise, no one even mentioned it. But I have to say, I’m so glad I took this opportunity to play alongside this blues-singer at the age I was because it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. She was an old-school blues singer in the Pearl Bailey tradition. She asked me to start playing a slow blues in Bb. Now I have to tell you that my parents were in the audience. Well after I started playing, she brought out a chair and motioned for me to sit down. She then sat on my lap and started passionately kissing me while I was playing the blues. She then started singing, but in the meantime, my face was completely covered with red lipstick marks. My parents actually were pretty amused and the singer came over and sat with us during the break. We all had a good laugh.”
“I’m terrible but I like to play golf.”
FAVORITE JOKE ABOUT YOUR INSTRUMENT:
“This joke is about Viola players, but I guess you could substitute. What’s the difference between a dead viola player on the road and a dead snake on the road? The snake has skid marks in front of it.”
P. Mauriat Saxophones