My name is Trevor Hock, I am a first-semester saxophonist from Los Angeles and I plan on entering the electronic production and design major.
Dayna Stephens, a graduate of both Berklee College of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, is heavily regarded in the jazz world as a phenomenal player with an impeccable tone on the sax. He is also known for his amazing compositions and arrangements. He was able to take time out of his busy schedule of recordings, live performances, and production to come put on a clinic for Berklee students. The clinic was part of The Checkout – Live at Berklee series, which features alumni performing for students and faculty.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on the clinic front row. As soon as Stephens stepped on stage, I felt as though I was in the presence of a guru. Without giving the impression that he was anything important, he let his sax do the talking (or singing for that matter). He began to play and the audience was immediately in awe of the tone he could produce. He has such passion for the instrument. You could just tell he spent hundreds of hours on long tones and just working on his overall sound.
After Stephens’s performance, he invited a few groups—the Mike Bono Group, Daydream Project, and the Daniel Rotem Trio—onstage to perform for the clinic. Although there were few actual critiques of each group, he gave accurate and completely motivating advice. He didn’t need to drone on about his expertise; he just told them what they needed to do to improve their overall sound and dynamic.
Overall, it was a great time, and I feel as a sax player, that I was enlightened to how so much soul one can have. There is a big difference between going though the motions (or chord changes) and actually being involved in what you are doing. Saxophone and other wind instruments have an expanded expressive range that comes from how you blow wind though the instrument. Aside from vibrato, there is growling, where you position your mouth on the mouthpiece, and how you manipulate the reed; these all can drastically change your sound. There are 32 keys in the “normal” range of a saxophone and even though there are a limited amount of keys on the instrument, there are an unlimited amount of possibilities for which to use them. Seeing a saxophone great was very inspiring and The Checkout was very well orchestrated.