Todd Yukumoto - Versatile Hawaiian Saxophonist - 23

by Barry Cockcroft | The Barry Sax Show

About Todd Yukumoto

Todd Yukumoto is lecturer of Saxophone at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa where he teaches applied saxophone and directs the University of Hawai’i Saxophone Choir. He is also saxophonist in the Royal Hawaiian Band, the only full-time municipal band in the United States.

Todd received a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Music Education from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Saxophone Performance from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied with renowned classical saxophonist Harvey Pittel.

He has performed with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Civic Orchestra, the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra and as a versatile jazz musician, also performs with local and visiting artists. For a number of years he has played regularly with the well-known Hawaiian rock band, Kalapana and has released several commercial recordings.

Todd founded the not-for-profit Hawaii Saxophone Foundation with a mission to raise the level of awareness and education of the saxophone (with the emphasis to classical music) in Hawaii.

Show Notes

  • Band was very popular in school and I loved it.
  • There were not many teachers available to start with.
  • Originally I wanted to be a band director.
  • Studying with Harvey Pittel and his influence in Hawaii.
  • Hearing the West Point Band saxophone quartet.
  • The importance of being flexible as a player.
  • If it involves the saxophone, I’m happy.
  • In music, you need as many life experiences as possible.
  • Taking care of business.
  • Focus on what is at hand at the time.
  • Day job with the Royal Hawaiian Band.
  • Practise routines for a busy lifestyle.
  • Playing without tension for a long healthy career.
  • Developing a career without a plan.
  • The importance of working with composers.
  • Being isolated on an island.
  • The more experiences you get for yourself, the more you have to offer.
  • Great, melodic, beautiful saxophone playing should always be with us.

Show Links

Transcript of Podcast Interview with Todd Yukumoto

Please enjoy the transcript of this podcast episode. With thousands of words in each episode it might contain a few typos and may also have been edited for clarity.

Barry Cockcroft: Thank you very much for agreeing to have this conversation. And I was just passing through in a way, and it’s great to be here in Hawaii and be able to talk with not just a Hawaiian, but someone who’s teaching saxophone as well in the state.

Todd Yukumoto: It’s great to be here, thanks.

Barry Cockcroft: Thanks Todd. And could you perhaps tell us how you got started on the saxophone in the first place.

Todd Yukumoto: While like most students growing up in school at my age, we didn’t have many other options. We didn’t have iPhones and video games in our home. So band was very popular and that was something that I was interested in since I can remember. Music was always a fascination for me. I remember being in kindergarten and sitting at a listening station and hearing music and just being transported to just another place. And I was so enamoured with music and that song.

Todd Yukumoto: I remember just a feeling from when I was five years old and listening to music. So when I got to intermediate school, what they call middle school now, I signed up for band class. My brother who was older played trumpet. So he was in band already and I just thought it was fantastic and I wanted to be part of that. So I started intermediate school in high school, went on to college at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. And subsequently went on and got my master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin.

Barry Cockcroft: So was alto sax your first instrument?

Todd Yukumoto: Yeah, alto sax is still my primary instrument.

Barry Cockcroft: I mean, how did you choose that instrument? Did someone just assign you one or were you drawn to it?

Todd Yukumoto: I didn’t know that much about saxophone but since I was a pretty small kid I think alto was the choice. Yeah. And still yet for me playing tenor and baritone feels kind of unwieldy at times, they’re big horns.

Barry Cockcroft: Yeah. I mean to this day I prefer soprano because I’m not very tall, so soprano is perfect for me.

Todd Yukumoto: Yes, soprano is great.

Barry Cockcroft: So did you have a specialist saxophone teacher to begin with in the band programme?

Todd Yukumoto: Not in the band programme. And it took a while for us to find the teacher that was available because band programmes were big and everybody was taking lessons and there weren’t that many teachers available. So it took quite a while for us to find somebody that would actually take me as a student, which was, I felt always very disappointed that nobody wanted to take me on as a student. We found my first saxophone teacher, his name is Gordon Tukishi, he took me on as a student and he was the perfect teacher for me at that time, because I had a lot of unfocused energy as you want to call it. And he really helped directly and put that energy into my music. So I was very grateful for that.

Todd Yukumoto: And actually that really kind of shapes my being now because I remember what it was like to not be able to have a teacher. So whenever anybody asks for lessons, I always try to, if not for myself, try to make sure that they find a teacher. Because I still remember that, it was not a great feeling. So to this day as if I cannot take the student, I will recommend someone, I will help them, through emails and phone calls and just keep trying to work it through so that they find somebody.

Barry Cockcroft: Do you think there is the right teacher for each student? Is it really important that they find the right person for them?

Todd Yukumoto: Overall I would say yeah. You have to find somebody that really speaks to you as a player and a person, I think that’s very important. And I was lucky that I had the teachers that I did and timing is important. I wouldn’t have been successful leaving Hawaii to study at a younger age, I think. I think I needed some time to develop as a person as well.

Barry Cockcroft: Now you did your bachelor’s degree, it was music education?

Todd Yukumoto: Yeah, music education.

Barry Cockcroft: So did you have a plan? I mean, were you thinking, yes, I’m going to be a music teacher.

Todd Yukumoto: Definitely. I was going to be a high school band director. I was all set to become the next band director in Hawaii and do all the marching festivals and all that stuff that they do – long hours. When I finished my undergraduate, I wasn’t happy with what I sounded like on the saxophone. And there is a gentleman that lives in New York, his name is Allen Won. And he studied with Harvey Pittel and he’s about the second generation to study with Harvey from Hawaii. The first one being Kazu Sunabe, who Allen studied with. And then Allen went to study with Harvey in Mannes.

Todd Yukumoto: And as I finished my bachelor’s degree, Allen then had come back to Hawaii for a visit. And I played for him a lesson, gave him my recital tape. And he said, “Well, you’re probably the top classical player in Hawaii right now.” And I said, “That’s pretty sad. I mean, I’m a college student, there’s got to be somebody else better classically.” He said, “No, you’re probably it.” And I said, “Well, I’m not really happy with what I sound like and how I play the saxophone. I want something more.” So he called Harvey, he said, “Come back in two days.” Called Harvey up. And I came back he said, “Well, if you want to study with Harvey Pittel, he’ll take you as a student. He’s interested in you.” So that was my foot in the door and I got my master’s degree and I came back to Hawaii and I said, “I don’t think I can be a band director, that’s not going to be for me.” So yeah, my plan was to be a band director but it kind of changed after that.

Barry Cockcroft: So Harvey Pittel must have had countless requests for students to go and study with him. Did he have a particular connection with Hawaii?

Todd Yukumoto: Definitely. Harvey was in the West Point Band during the Vietnam era and had a saxophone quartet. One of the gentleman that was in the quartet was from Hawaii, so they came and did a tour I think around 1969, they toured several islands and stayed here for several weeks and performed. And from the generation before me band directors, they still remembered what Harvey sounds like and he has a truly beautiful sound and playing method. So that established him in Hawaii and so whenever he came back and he’s been back many times people still remember him.

Barry Cockcroft: Do you think that connection of your teacher having studied with him as well, like almost in generations, do you think that’s an important part of learning music?

Todd Yukumoto: That’s a good question, I never thought about that. But it does give us a foundation to work off of since he’s had such a big influence in Hawaii for I would say at least maybe three generations of players. Everybody kind of has a concept about what his playing style is. Some play with very full sounds and it’s not always what everybody likes. But in Hawaii it’s pretty established here.

Barry Cockcroft: I mean, there might not be a big difference, but could you describe the differences of teaching styles that you encountered when you were a student.

Todd Yukumoto: Well, I only studied with one other gentlemen who wasn’t from that school of playing. And he was a wonderful man and taught here at the university and he played with a much lighter sound, it was beautiful, and very even, very light and it was beautiful. But for me that wasn’t what I wanted to sound like. I still wanted something a little bit more. And because I also do more than classical playing, I wanted a system of playing that would allow me to do every type of music that I wanted to play.

Barry Cockcroft: How important is being flexible in style here for you just to work?

Todd Yukumoto: In Hawaii, well, I think it’s very important to be flexible as a player. I think that would apply anywhere in the world. The more hats you can wear, the more work you’re going to get. And although I’m formally trained as a classical saxophonist, majority of my work is not classical. I think I’m playing every other style most times of the week, rock and roll, pop music, reggae bands. I’ve done salsa bands too, but I still love playing classical. I mean, I love it all and that’s why I chose saxophone at a young age because I wanted to play every style of music.

Barry Cockcroft: So it’s more you love to play the saxophone as opposed to play a specific style of music.

Todd Yukumoto: Sure.

Barry Cockcroft: As long as it involves the saxophone, you’re happy.

Todd Yukumoto: I am happy playing music, that’s my joy. It’s kind of like a food, I love eating, I love eating all kinds of food. So if I was relegated to just eat one type of food all the time, I probably wouldn’t be as happy, although I might be skinnier or something like that.

Barry Cockcroft: Maybe there’s two ways to do this, but I see people specialising more where they’re doing the opposite of what you’re describing. But at the same time, I also meet a lot of people who are very comfortable crossing between different styles. Do you think we can sometimes get too caught up in one style? Can we be too focused?

Todd Yukumoto: Possibly. My attitude towards music is a little bit like my philosophy about life and trying to get as many experiences in life as possible. Trying to absorb as many things in this world that we can and in turn letting that become part of yourself and being able to reflect that in music gives you I think a bigger pallet to work from.

Barry Cockcroft: Now that you are the university teacher, is there one thing you find yourself repeating to your students that you think is very helpful to them?

Todd Yukumoto: Other than practising.

Barry Cockcroft: They don’t do that?

Todd Yukumoto: It’s questionable at times. The big picture about taking care of business and doing everything that needs to be done for whatever responsibilities you have and trying to illustrate that by how I live my life. And hopefully I’m doing something right and trying to instil them values that are important, that’s important for anything we do. I feel you can’t just take care of one aspect of your life like just saxophone, life is much more complex than that. But if you understand how to take care of certain aspects of your life, hopefully that will follow through in every other part of your life too.

Barry Cockcroft: Now you’re quite busy performing as well as teaching. How do you balance or juggle either way those two activities?

Todd Yukumoto: One at a time. I just focus on what’s coming up and that has to be the most important thing. And there’s times where I’ve literally had to play a major classical piece and the very next night I’m playing with the reggae band and the night after that playing rock and roll someplace. So all I can do is just focus on what’s at hand and take it as it comes.

Barry Cockcroft: Now you have, perhaps it’s an unusual position, but you also have a job as a band member, right?

Todd Yukumoto: Yes.

Barry Cockcroft: So some people would be happy just to have one job or the other job, but you seem to keep everything going. What are the sort of weekly commitments with your band?

Todd Yukumoto: My day job is the Royal Hawaiian band, which is the only full-time municipal band in the United States. And it was created in 18, I’d say 1870, I should know this but it slipped my mind. But it was established by King Kamehameha III, who was from the monarchy era. And he created the band for the people to bring music and all of the aesthetics that come from having a musical organisation. Now, I believe it was set up before the Honolulu symphony. So that was the performing group of Hawaii. And subsequently it became an agency of the city and county. So we’re civil servants and it’s a great job to have. It allows me to be a musician as a living, so that is great.

Todd Yukumoto: One of my goals when I came back to Hawaii was, I read Marcel Mule’s biography and he was a saxophonist in the guard republican band and taught at the Paris conservatory. And I thought that is a great way to do it. So I could teach at the university and play in the Royal Hawaiian band. And that was kind of my goal on how to keep myself going.

Barry Cockcroft: Now you mentioned before we got here that you are recently married.

Todd Yukumoto: Yes.

Barry Cockcroft: You’ve introduced yet another element to your busy schedule. What does your wife think of all your musical activities?

Todd Yukumoto: Well, I’m fortunate because she’s a musician too. She’s a phenomenal clarinettist and she plays with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and teaches. So she understands what it is to be a musician. So she is very understanding about that and she’s, I think pretty proud of what I do as a musician. So, she’s very understanding and that’s, so I lucked out.

Barry Cockcroft: How would you describe the way that you practise now compared to your practising when you’re a student?

Todd Yukumoto: Well, definitely when you’re a student you have much more time to practise. And it was common for me to practise at least four hours a day on top of having four hours ensemble work. Now it’s, I’m not that, my life is not that luxurious. So if I have an engagement, important engagement coming up, I will buckle down and practise and something usually get sacrificed along the way. I might not be able to get to the gym or have any leisure time. But that’s something that we all have to do, is take care of our responsibilities.

Barry Cockcroft: What is your typical practise routine? Let’s say you’ve got a big performance coming up, what would you do?

Todd Yukumoto: I practise my warm-ups for myself, practising overtones, whatever you want to call that, other people have other terms for it, but we match overtones. Then I’ll go through my scale books. And maybe I’ll run through some etudes if I have enough time just to keep myself going. And then it’s focused on whatever piece is coming up. And I think just covering the basics every day, your overtones, your scales, it really helps to keep you in shape.

Barry Cockcroft: Yeah. How much of your music is done from memory? How important is that to you in your music performance?

Todd Yukumoto: Classically, I don’t think I do too much just off of my memory. Pop music, jazz, some other reggae bands I play with and yeah, a lot of it is by memory. But I think it’s important if you have that kind of skill from memory. I don’t have a great memory, but if you got it, yeah, I think that’s terrific.

Barry Cockcroft: Is it something you work on with your students, to train them or to encourage them to try it at least.

Todd Yukumoto: I haven’t, just because I don’t want to sound hypocritical to tell them, you got to have this memorised and I can’t do it myself. I think the main thing is that they get whatever’s on that page out and all the nuances and whatever they put into themselves, into the music. If they can get that out, then I think that’s a success.

Barry Cockcroft: Now you’ve been playing already for quite a while. You mentioned going to the gym, but is there something that you do when you’re playing that ensures that you don’t injure yourself, that you can be able to keep playing for a long time.

Todd Yukumoto: Well, I think the methodology of playing, which I learned from my teacher Harvey Pittel, which he learned I believe from Joe Allard. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Joel Allard but he taught thousands and thousands of players. And about not having any tension on the embouchure as you play. I think that really helps to saved my chops as it were. And that’s why we could practise for four or five hours and not really feel much fatigued physically on the embouchure just mentally and just the rest of your body huffing and puffing on the horn. But I think that system of playing is very helpful for being a player.

Barry Cockcroft: Would you say that your musical career has evolved, I don’t want to say by chance, but let’s say more organically. Or were you really specifically looking to do certain things and tick them off and work your way through?

Todd Yukumoto: Oh man, I really didn’t have huge plans or huge goals. I kind of take it very organically is as whatever comes my way. But I have had a couple of things that I am very thrilled to have had the opportunity. One was, and becoming a member for a while of my teachers quartet, the Harvey Pittel’s saxophone quartet. That was a huge honour to be asked to play with the group. That is the group that I heard growing up, so to be asked to be able to be a member that was a thrill.

Todd Yukumoto: On the commercial side, there’s a local group that’s been around for about 45 years called Kalapana. They’re a surf rock band, pop music. And that was a group that I heard when I was, I think I must’ve been second grade and I heard their music and it was just phenomenal and still is phenomenal to me. And I became a member of the band about 14 or 15 years ago, and it’s been a great experience playing with them. Just playing with one of my musical heroes growing up. So those just kind of happened by chance.

Barry Cockcroft: Yeah. How important has the recording of the albums you’ve done been to the development of your playing?

Todd Yukumoto: I’m not sure as far as development of my playing, but I think getting the knowledge that you learned from doing a recording has really helped me evolve as a professional. It’s quite a journey as anybody who has done a recording knows, it’s quite difficult. They always say the easiest part is the playing and other work is what surrounds it.

Barry Cockcroft: Do you find the albums have been useful career wise as a promotional tool?

Todd Yukumoto: It’s a nice thing to hand out, I guess. I don’t think I’ve made that big a splash with my recordings. It’s funny, my first CD was released more than 10 years ago, maybe even about 13 years ago. And it was just recently played on a show on NPR, I think it’s called exploring music. And just by chance they featured as Hawaii music and for whatever reason my piece was on that show. I mean 13 years later, that’s for my first CD. So maybe in another 10 years somebody will listen to my second CD.

Barry Cockcroft: How important is working with composers from Hawaii to your development of the classical music.

Todd Yukumoto: I think working with composers is very important, it doesn’t matter where they’re from. Composers, it’s a great thing for musicians to make connections with composers. They want to write music, they want to know musicians. And it can really help your career I believe if you play a composer’s music, they all want you to come to our school or wherever they are and premiered this piece. And if you love to perform, yeah, that’s great. And I’ve found that most composers are just fantastic people. They are just willing to work with you and create something for your instrument and that’s always been a real joy. I think every composer that I’ve met has just been fantastic, just wonderful people.

Barry Cockcroft: Do you encourage your students to collaborate, let’s say with the younger composers, the students collaborating with students?

Todd Yukumoto: I do. I think it’s a good thing for all musicians to approach composers and ask them if they’ll write for your instrument, and we still do that. I have a non-profit foundation called the Hawaii Saxophone Foundation and we’re non-profit. One of the things that we do is commission composers to write saxophone music. So we’ve had about three commissions now and it’s just a joy to be able to get something new for your instrument and promote the instrument. We are in a time where it’s just far reaching around the world now. We can meet people from anywhere and to be able to have something created, it’s just, I think that should be the goal for all of us.

Barry Cockcroft: How do you go about raising funds for your not for profit?

Todd Yukumoto: We have some events that we will have silent auctions or we have food events. We did a wine and food pairing and sell tickets and those profits go into our foundation for compositions. We also do scholarships and I also provide schools with equipment. So that’s our … our mission is to bring awareness and elevate saxophone education.

Barry Cockcroft: Great. Now you’re organising other things as well because I can see on your wall here, you’ve got the saxophone masterclass and David Sanborn’s up there. That has become a regular event, right?

Todd Yukumoto: It is. We do about four to six masterclasses. Whenever there’s a visiting saxophonists, we offer to host a masterclass and we provide it free of charge for the public. And it’s our way of just trying to elevate music education and it’s been quite successful. We’ve gotten several outstanding saxophonists who have come through and it’s kind of a joy for me trying not to fan boy out on some of the guests that we had in our masterclasses. But they’ve all been terrific people.

Barry Cockcroft: That’s a very worthwhile project.

Todd Yukumoto: I think so. I really think we’re trying to elevate things here in Hawaii.

Barry Cockcroft: Sure. I’m a bit curious because I’m from an island-

Todd Yukumoto: A big one.

Barry Cockcroft: Maybe the land mass is a little bigger. But Australians always talk about the sense of isolation in terms of the world. And we are physically a long way from other people. And if you want to go somewhere else, it’s an effort, it’s a long way, it’s expensive, all of that. Is there an element of that here in Hawaii, a long way in a sense, maybe not culturally but distance wise we’re a long way from mainland America.

Todd Yukumoto: Absolutely. I think Hawaii is the most isolated place in the world. I think the closest landmass we have is over 2,500 miles away, which would be California. So it is difficult and being so far away it’s easy to not get any recognition for what we do. It’s easier now I think if you really want to make a name for yourself with the internet and all of that, that’s a great tool to be able to promote yourself. And yeah, it is tough. And people used to say it’s almost impossible to have a career living in Hawaii, but I think things are changing. And it is just left up to the individual how much they want to promote themselves and get out.

Barry Cockcroft: How important was it for you to return home in a sense after your master’s degree? Had you planned to come back home, were you, had you considered to stay on the` mainland?

Todd Yukumoto: Sure. I definitely had thoughts about staying on the mainland. Kind of wasn’t sure where to go after I finished my master’s degree, but I really loved it in Austin at the time. But I came back to Hawaii and kind of rechanged my focus that I would try to pass along information to the next generation, about how to play the saxophone and how to try to get to a higher level from whatever I can do to help students.

Barry Cockcroft: Do you encourage your students also to venture away?

Todd Yukumoto: I have, if that’s what they are wanting to do, I definitely try to help them and have helped students pursue degrees elsewhere.

Barry Cockcroft: Yeah. Australia has, not just in music but in general, a lot of people take a gap year where after high school or after university they will take a year off. Usually it’s they travel to visit wherever their families came from in the world, an island of immigrants in Australia. And it’s very common that students take a year off, and often in that one year it’s actual chance to find their path, find out what they want to do. And it’s just by removing themselves from their everyday culture, they’ve got a bit more time to consider what they want to do with themselves.

Barry Cockcroft: And I think students travelling elsewhere to study are much more likely to reflect on those sorts of questions, just because they’re away from home and they’re not influenced by the everyday routine of family life.

Todd Yukumoto: It’s interesting, I didn’t know that about Australia.

Barry Cockcroft: You’ll see Australians everywhere, hopefully doing the right thing. How important is the creative process in, you’re talking about jazz and things before, but how important is improvising and the compositional side of music in your own music?

Todd Yukumoto: Importance of improvisation, I think if that is something that you are connected to inside of yourself and that is a source of expressing yourself then fantastic, then do it. I think it’s a good thing for all students to be first in all styles of music. Again, the more experiences you get for yourself, the more you have to offer. So improvisation was something that I started out young. I love listening to jazz and fusion jazz when I was growing up and that became a part of who I am I think as a player.

Barry Cockcroft: Do you think improvising is something that we lose the ability to do or is it something that we discover how to do?

Todd Yukumoto: I think anybody can do it if they want to do it. And I will be the first to profess. I am not a serious mainstream jazz guy. I’m not like Jon Gordon or Branford or any of those phenomenal players as far as improvisation. But I do what I can and I guess it’s been okay.

Barry Cockcroft: Now I’ve got a few questions that are just quick.

Todd Yukumoto: Okay.

Barry Cockcroft: Quick question, quick answer, whatever comes to mind.

Todd Yukumoto: All right.

Barry Cockcroft: Is there something that you believe that few people agree with?

Todd Yukumoto: You said short answer. Wow. That’s a good question. There’s going to be a lot of people that don’t agree with what I think about the saxophone and that’s fine, I’m totally okay with it. It’s a big world, everybody should have their own opinion.

Barry Cockcroft: If you just had one piece of music that you could play from now on, what piece would it be?

Todd Yukumoto: Oh man, these are great questions, I have no idea. One piece of music, Ibert, Concertino da camera. ‘Cause it’s so hard, you can spend a lifetime learning that.

Barry Cockcroft: And there’s still more to do.

Todd Yukumoto: Yes.

Barry Cockcroft: If you just had one hour to practise, how would you spend your time?

Todd Yukumoto: I would do my overtones. I would play my scales. I think those are the fundamentals that get us to be able to play whatever we want. So, just an hour, five minutes overtones, half an hour of scales and then perhaps an etude.

Barry Cockcroft: Who’s the person that you’ve had contact with who you would consider to be a big contributor to the development of the saxophone throughout the world?

Todd Yukumoto: Well, I still have to recognise my teacher Harvey Pittel. I think he has really created a school of playing that is truly wonderful. And what I like about that is that he never really wants you to sound like him. He wants you to sound like you and never ever said to sound like him. But gave us the fundamentals which allow us to be able to sound like what we sound like. So that would be the person for me I think.

Barry Cockcroft: Sure. What’s the most important thing that you do before you walk on stage so that you are going to be playing at your best?

Todd Yukumoto: Breathe.

Barry Cockcroft: Is there a special type of breath you take?

Todd Yukumoto: The same type of breathing that I do when I play, which is just filling the lungs from the top down, which I’m sure people are going to argue with me about that. But it’s kind of more a singer’s way of breathing and it allows you to have a full breath. And I think if you do 10 of those before you go on, I think that’s quite helpful.

Barry Cockcroft: If you don’t do that, do you notice a difference?

Todd Yukumoto: Sure. Beyond that, getting a good warm-up before you walk on stage I think is most helpful.

Barry Cockcroft: Looking back, I guess with hindsight, is there a piece of advice you would like to give your younger self when you were just starting out?

Todd Yukumoto: Yeah, get serious sooner.

Barry Cockcroft: Serious sooner.

Todd Yukumoto: Yeah.

Barry Cockcroft: That’s good, it’s brief.

Todd Yukumoto: Time is flying by and we don’t realise all that time that might’ve been wasted were opportunities to learn.

Barry Cockcroft: Do you think that waste of time is something that we can teach the students to be efficient with their time or is it just a process that we have to go through and whittle away our hours, nothing happening.

Todd Yukumoto: Perhaps we all need to find our own time in our life that we find ourselves. And I know for myself I needed to find myself before I got serious, so I think to each their own.

Barry Cockcroft: The way I think about it is I really like to waste time, but I hate my time being wasted.

Todd Yukumoto: That’s great.

Barry Cockcroft: And as long as I’m in charge of that, I’m happy.

Todd Yukumoto: That’s terrific.

Barry Cockcroft: What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the development of the saxophone over the last couple of decades that may be have surprised you? And then what are some things that haven’t changed at all that have also surprised you?

Todd Yukumoto: As far as the saxophone, I think the repertoires gotten much harder, much more challenging. And what composers are writing and for what the students can do now is just phenomenal. When I hear these competitions for college students, I’m blown away by what they can do and the facility that they have is incredible. So that’s really ramped up, I would say within the last 10, 20 years. The level of playing is just so high. And also the development of saxophone choir, so saxophone ensembles have really taken off. When we started ours in Hawaii 23 years ago, it was really difficult just to find public publications for large saxophone ensemble.

Todd Yukumoto: And it seems like I’ve turned around now and they are everywhere in the world, Australia, Japan has so many phenomenal groups, large groups, and across the United States too. There’s just amazing saxophone ensembles out there. I’m just like, “Wow, when did this all change within the last 20 years?” They’re everywhere, which is terrific, I think that’s great. I think what hasn’t changed is just what great, melodic, beautiful saxophone playing is. And that should always be with us.

Barry Cockcroft: Now, where can people find out more about your activities?

Todd Yukumoto: They can look up my website,, which I try to keep current but not always most up to date. Beyond that, the Hawaii Saxophone Foundation, we take a look on that. We do quite a bit, trying to do some good work here in Hawaii. So you check out those websites.

Barry Cockcroft: So we can find your music online, which is excellent. Now, finally you’ve made already such a large and broad contribution to saxophone. What is coming up next for you in the foreseeable future? What’s something you would really like to work on?

Todd Yukumoto: I think I’d like to work on doing a commercial album, like a contemporary jazz album. That’s something that I’ve been hounded by several producers to do and I just haven’t really made the time to do something like that. But that would be something on my bucket list to do. I think that would be a fun project.

Barry Cockcroft: Great. Now, we can hear the saxophones practising in the background here.

Todd Yukumoto: Yeah.

Barry Cockcroft: It’s late at night, it’s really impressive.

Todd Yukumoto: Well, maybe they do listen to me, who knows.

Barry Cockcroft: Todd, thanks very much for your time this evening. It’s been great to meet you.

Todd Yukumoto: Thanks, likewise.

Barry Cockcroft: And I’ve also enjoyed visiting your beautiful state. Thank you.

Todd Yukumoto: Welcome back anytime.

Barry Cockcroft: Great. Thanks. Good on you, thanks Todd.

Todd Yukumoto: Thank you.

Share This