Sammie Roberts is an alto saxophone player in Orange County. He has studied with musicians such as Cecil Alston, and Brian Smith. He plays such venues as Bowers Museum, as well as Children's Hospital of Orange County and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Via telephone, he discussed his musical background and influences as well as the importance of music education.
Have you always played jazz?
I’ve always played jazz, a little bit of R and B, blues.
That started from a young age?
It started in junior high and high school. I started with trumpet, then I moved to saxophone and started getting into more complex arrangements.
Why the switch to saxophone from trumpet?
I met Frank Morgan. When I heard Frank Morgan in person, he was a protégé of Charlie Parker, I made the decision to change. I could hear myself through that instrument. I immediately went out and got an alto saxophone. Over the years he always provided a lot of support and pointers. In life, you grow and try to make sense of things. The alto saxophone as I heard it was the closest thing to the human voice.
Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your music?
At first it was the people I was really drawn to like Frank Morgan, Paul Desmond, a lot of horn players. Charles Lloyd, Sonny Rollins, Richie Cole. A wide range, Stan Getz, Keith Jarrett. All the horn players. Then when you grow and evolve and start to play with different ensembles, you start to be influenced not only by the instrument you play, but you start to hear different sounds and shades and colors. Different people influence you at different times. It depends on what I’m working on too.
You see music as a never-ending journey. Where do you see this journey taking you next?
I see it taking me to a place of higher creativity. Pieces that are broad, approaching music from the perspective of a landscape, like Big Sur. Where I’m connected to the outdoors and where you’re free to explore the different parts of the music. As opposed to being confined to a certain form of jazz or music. Reaching from within my life experience and letting that come through the horn. I’m touring with a percussionist from Saint Lucia. We have a few projects we’re working on. We have a big sound, a lot of activity, a lot of Latin flavor. We’ll be touring more in the summer.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
If I weren’t making music, I’d be looking for a way to make music. There are so many experiences in life where that instrument gets you through some tough times. I wouldn’t exchange it for anything, whether it be disappointments in relationships, the birth of children, the death of a friend or loved one. One thing that’s been constant is the reliability and trueness of music. If I wasn’t making music, I’d be looking for a way to do it.
Anything else you want to add?
The biggest thing now is for younger ones. The school systems that we have today do not provide support. If young people have that goal and they’re really passionate about it, they should look for a way to talk with a musician. Musicians should do a lot more to reach out to younger ones to be a mentor. Help folks to realize the talent they have and be creative. They may never record a CD or play in front of millions of folks. But at least they should be able to start something, expand, and be creative in different areas. We need more awareness to appreciate music development and performance.
There is never money for education, music, and arts.
Exactly. Jazz specifically. If we don’t really appreciate something, we lose it. Jazz is one of the true American art forms. It originated here. You go to Europe, there are players who aren’t as proficient with their instruments as they could be, but they are really creative and give it all they have. Over there, folks look at it as something to behold. Over here, there’s not a lot of use for it. We almost have to pay to play sometimes, just to share what we have and give music to people. Hopefully, that will change.
For more information, visit http://www.sammieroberts.com/.