WT: Teaching music remotely sounds difficult, to say the least. How has it been going?
Mr. Bradford: It's been an interesting, challenging situation, but the kids make it fun. Whether we're in school or online, I just like interacting with them and teaching them about music!
We're sure you're counting down the days until you can be in the new music room—have you seen it?
Yes, it's amazing! I'm very excited about it. I look forward to being able to make music with our students once things get better.
Did you always want to be a musician?
I was interested in sports (basketball, baseball & football) when I was younger, and I absolutely love motorsports: Motorcycles & F1. But I always wanted to play music. My high school and elementary school music teachers, Mr. Dockett, Mr Clark and Mr. Savage, were all professional musicians in their own right. Seeing them teach and perform really opened up my eyes to being able to do the same.
So is it safe to say when you're not teaching, you're playing the saxophone?
Pretty much! I'm not in a specific band at this point in my career but I've probably freelanced with more than 200 bands locally and abroad. I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Buddy Guy, and I toured with the Isley Bros for two years.
That's amazing! We have to imagine you've seen a ton of shows over the years—any favorites?
Hmmmm....This is tough. I've been a part of some amazing concerts and I've seen some great ones too: U2, Sting, Prince, The Roots. But I think the Branford Marsalis Quartet is the most consistently phenomenal. They're a jazz band that perform with the energy of a rock band! Smaller groups are awesome, too. I was in Amsterdam years ago walking down the street and heard some Jazz playing. I opened the door to this walk-up apartment building and there was a jazz quartet playing in an apartment converted to a small coffee/music spot. It was the coolest thing! I was upset I didn't have my horn with me, but I had a great time talking about music and having coffee after the band finished.
We'll add them to our playlist! Do you have a favorite song?
That's kind of like asking if I have a favorite kid. Lol! I think songs come and go depending on what you gravitate towards and honestly what's happening in your life. I do tend to listen to a song by Branford Marsalis called Lykief. Everything the band puts into it improvisation-wise just makes it really organic.
Ok: If you could spend a Friday evening at The Green Mill just hanging out and listening to music with 3 musicians, dead or alive, who would they be?
I've spent many nights hanging out with musicians at the Green Mill! I think it would be Miles Davis, David Bowie and Prince. That sounds like the beginning of a joke...
Ha! It totally does. What are some of your other interests outside of music? We read somewhere that musicians are almost always good cooks: True or False?
Definitely true! I love to cook. I've worked at several high-end Chicago restaurants in my life and I’ve picked up a thing or two here and there from some amazing chefs like Paul Bartilota and Tony Mantuano.
Wow—anything else your students would be surprised to learn about you?
First, after all my years performing, I still use things that I teach them in my own musical development. A student asked me recently how I know so much about music; I just laughed and said it's easy when you love it! Second, I'm younger than 50 years old. They're always guessing I'm over 50—Sigh! And third, I have a son and a daughter who both attend Lane Tech.
Two teenagers! So what do the children of a musician listen to? Do your kids like the same stuff you do?
I don't force my them to listen to what I listen to, and I don't do that with the students either. I kinda just put stuff on and let them absorb it! They'll usually come and ask me about some song or artist from 20-30 years ago, and then I know they're listening. There have been kids over the years here at school who are really into listening to music and tell me about cool stuff that I need to go check out. I love that!
There's a lot of musical talent at Waters, too! To that end, can you give us 3 reasons why kids should learn to play an instrument?
1. It's fun (Maybe not at first) 2. The connections you make with other musicians is immeasurable. I have a very diverse group of friends from all over the world simply because I play the saxophone. You can't put a price on that! 3. There's a level of discipline and effort that you put into playing music that will help with other facets of your life and it's a great way to channel your feelings or emotions.
Love it. Thank you so much Mr. Bradford.