Get to know one of our newest musicians - Jeffrey Leung, Saxophone!
When was your first encounter with music?
My father is a huge Classical Music nerd so I grew up listening to a lot of orchestral repertoire around the dinner table and whenever we drove around town. He is a full time physiotherapist working at a hospital back home in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada but always (even today) finds time to practice trumpet technique, excerpts, and repertoire at the end of the day. He is a truly inspirational figure to me and embodies what it means to truly love music.
When/How did you start playing your instrument?
Despite my best efforts and intentions, my father shut down my early attempts to play the trumpet. When it finally came time to pick an instrument in seventh grade, I chose the instrument that most closely resembled the trumpet and wouldn't require any "buzzing" technique. I found the saxophone and have never looked back since. In fact, I still perform on the same alto saxophone I got as a sophomore in high school!
When did you decide to make music your career?
In my junior year of high school, our band was invited to the Nationals of MusicFest Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. The festival's sponsors wanted to celebrate a major anniversary of Canadian-Japanese diplomatic relations so they brought in the Yamaha Symphonic Band as the headlining performers of the festival - the ensemble was comprised of the instrument makers from the Yamaha facilities in Japan. The ensemble's level of musicianship was incredible but the most memorable moment for me was seeing the conductor step to the side of the podium, pick up a saxophone, and perform a concerto from memory with the ensemble. I was instantly hooked to the sound and gripping virtuosity that embodies classical saxophone and in that moment, knew that this was what I needed to pursue. The saxophonist was Nobuya Sugawa and he has remained a personal hero of mine ever since.
What is your favorite memory of a performance?
Improvisation is a huge part of my musical identity as a saxophonist and one of my fondest memories of performing was in December 2016 in South Bend, Indiana at the Birdsell Project: an abandoned industrial space that is used to support works by local artists and to promote them to the community. I was touring with the Creative Arts Orchestra (from the University of Michigan) and we performed a set of original tunes by my good friend Adam Shead and a second set that involved travelling and improvising through the space with an audience that was free to wander or explore as they pleased. The environment was so fun to interact with and I have never felt more connected with an ensemble and audience than in those silos sitting beside a broken generator in the labyrinth of concrete hallways. Improvisation, to me, best represents the language of music and in that moment, everyone was engaged in a very special conversation.
What do you like to do outside of music?
Outside of the practice room, I do my absolute best to keep my mind and body in shape. I enjoy food and beverage A LOT but I also balance that with exercise as much as my schedule allows. I enjoy being with friends and learning about new things and board games - most recently, we've been on an Avalon kick and I have added several books to my reading list for the summer!