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Rising Stars: Meet Tanner Caldwell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tanner Caldwell.

Hi Tanner, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I started singing when I was in 4th grade, and I started playing saxophone when I was in 6th grade. I really enjoyed figuring out songs on the saxophone. Now I call it transcribing, and I enjoy it just as much!

By 7th grade, I would tell people “I want to be a saxophone player when I grow up”, and so far that’s exactly what happened! I was in a jazz band in high school (Principia and Parkway West), and I went to SIUE to study jazz performance.

Now, I’m graduated, and I’m playing in The Red Jackets, Griffin, and The Gargoyles, as well as my own projects like EBTKS (Everything But The Kitchen Sink) and Okay Two Things, an acoustic duo with my friend Canaan Gibbs. The best part is I’m a full-time freelancer, although I have started teaching lessons at Music & Arts in Fairview Heights.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Honestly, it’s been pretty dang smooth. I would say every step of the journey fit my maturity level.

When I was in jazz band and JazzU, that was an appropriate challenge for that time. When I went to SIUE and was pushed by my private instructor and my classmates, that was an appropriate challenge for then.

Now the challenge is in the stamina that is required of a freelance musician. It’s tough to take my playing to the next level when my job is also playing, so that’s the roadblock I’m working on right now!

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’m a freelance saxophonist. I think just like with any creative profession I want to pinpoint the things that make me irreplaceable.

I want to pinpoint the things that make me irreplaceable, and for me, I think that’s the combination of preparation, professionalism, and energy I bring to every gig. I really do try to play things as close to the record as possible, but I think it’s okay to play around sometimes, and therein lies . . . Umm, me!

My over-the-top energy is what I feel makes me stand apart. But I really do try to balance that with professionalism, knowing what the expectations of the gig are, and fulfilling those before adding the special sauce.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
I was always nerdy, in fact, I remember making a point of it at a very young age to be different. I did not want to be normal! At first, I was nerdy about animals and nature, but then it became music.

Right when 8th grade ended, I discovered a saxophonist named Maceo Parker, and I fell in love with his sound on the saxophone. From there, I found the groups that he played with and I became a ginormous funk nerd, listening to James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic constantly.

So I mean the fact that I didn’t care that none of those music groups were in fashion anymore and I still adored them so much, I guess is a testament to my pure love for it! So I dived all the way into music and saxophone, just like I did with animals before!

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Image Credits and @that_kinney_guy

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