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Take Five With Shirantha Beddage

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Meet Shirantha Beddage: Baritone saxophonist Shirantha Beddage is the Director of Jazz Studies at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA, and a Doctoral candidate at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Shirantha's new release, Roots and Branches (Jazz Excursion Records, 2007), features a collection of his original works for quartet featuring piano, bass and drums. The works contained within are often tributes to composers that influenced Beddage as a saxophonist and pianist, in addition to other compositions that incorporate open forms and structures into the quartet environment. The release features Michael Stryker (piano), Ryan Kotler (bass), and Jared Schonig (drums).

Instrument: baritone saxophone.

Teachers and/or influences? Teachers: Pat LaBarbera, Alex Dean, Brian Dickinson, James Williams, Gary Smulyan, Richard Derosa, Ramon Ricker, Harold Danko, Bill Dobbins.

Influences: John Coltrane, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Sonny Stitt, Lee Konitz.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I figured out how to play the Mission Impossible theme on the piano.

Your sound and approach to music: My sound on the baritone has developed from a childhood of listening to the tenor saxophone; consequently, I try and access the extended upper range of the baritone wherever possible, using the low end for effect. As a composer, I try and surround myself with encouraging and risk-taking players, so that I can write for specific personalities in my band, rather than always creating "concept pieces" or contrafacts.

Your teaching approach: Jazz is an oral tradition, therefore we as teachers must endeavor to approach all teaching methods from the standpoint of the recordings rather than use the numerous texts and method books as a primary resource. We, as students of jazz, must understand how the music sounds before we attempt to interpret it on paper; only after a thorough understanding of jazz from the recorded literature and historical perspective will the student gain from examining the written jazz teaching aids available today.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? A unique voice on my instrument, and the desire to share my music with those who do not have the ability to experience music on a daily basis.

Did you know... I have worked in voice-over production for radio and television in Canada.

Desert Island picks: John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!); Stan Getz, [i[Focus (Verve); Cannonball Adderley, The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Fransisco (Riverside/OJC); Chick Corea and Return to Forever, Light as a Feather; Bill Evans, Conversations With Myself (Verve).

By Day (if you have a day job) I am the Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Theory at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA.

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