Practice Makes Perfect Series: SJO'S Ingrid Stitt
Ingrid and I had the pleasure of meeting previously at Jodi Proznick's Girls Jazz Day at the VSO School of Music this past summer, and I was really digging her solos and improvisation during the faculty concert. Ingrid has this tendency to play super tasty stuff all the time, and I have to admit that she is one of my favourite local saxophonists to listen to, the other being Karen Graves. Ingrid has this no-nonsense vibe to her, while also being stylish in her look and quick with her wit. To put it simply, she's one of the sharpest tools in the shed...and she is definitely in the shed! Check out her response to question 6 to learn about her practice routines!
1. How did you get into playing your instrument? How did you get into playing jazz?
I grew up in a small town that only had a community band program, mostly organized by volunteers. One day, my mom took me to the orientation and I was given an alto sax without knowing a thing about the band or any instruments. It was pretty much love at first sight for my young ten year old self. I think I was mostly impressed with the golden hue and the pearl like keys! I joined the junior band for a year, then the senior band adding the jazz band when I had more skill. I couldn’t get enough of playing the saxophone!
2. What do you love about your instrument? (Let's talk shop - what gear/brands are you currently using? What do you like about your choices?)
I think I still like the look of it even though that seems a bit shallow...lol. I really love the big sound, the warm timbre, the dexterity. It's also a fairly versatile instrument so I enjoy playing different kinds of music on the saxophone. I play a Selmer super action 80 and a Meyer 5M mouthpiece and Rico Royal reeds 3.5.
3. What's it like playing in a big band? Do you play in small ensembles as well? What's the difference between small and big ensembles for you?
Big band music is quite challenging to read and play well. There are multiple layers of complexity and I like thinking about how to respond to it. I also love the sound of all the instruments, right through the entire band. The social aspect is cool too, playing with all the musicians. I enjoy playing in small ensembles too, which typically offer more improvisation opportunities. I like to arrange and compose music for the small ensemble.
4. As a professional musician, what are your biggest challenges?
There are many challenges to overcome to become a professional musician however my biggest challenge was figuring out how to make a living. It takes a lot of courage, tenacity and resourcefulness as there is no straight line to an answer. I remember feeling very stressed as I approached the end of my music degree. However, I tried everything I could think of to create a career for myself and I believed I could do it. It wasn't easy and I didn't make much money for quite awhile but eventually, opportunities came up and I was ready. In fact, it is fair to say that I created some of those opportunities by seeking out ways to connect with people and places in the music world.
5.What albums/artists are you digging right now (in any jazz genre!)?
I love Cannonball, Dexter, Bird and Kenny Garrett however, lately I'm listening to Stan Getz with the Oscar Peterson trio.
6. The JUICIEST question --> Tell us about your PRACTICE ROUTINES PLEASE! Are they very structured, more free? How do you fit in practice sessions? Do you have a range of practice routines based on time allowance? What's the number one thing you work on during these sessions? Tell us ALL THE DETAILS!!!
A routine regimen has always been my approach and I usually have a planned structure, i.e. skills I want to learn or improve. I also spend time learning tunes and transcribing as it helps with ear training. Lately, I've been mixing up the order. I might start with a tune or with transcribing and then get to the tedium of scales and progressions. But I often don’t have a lot of time to practice so I try to make sure I’m working on things I still need to master. There is a long list of those things by the way. I try to stay focused. Sometimes it’s easy to let my mind drift away from the task as it seems boring or familiar. So keeping my mind present is a big part of making progress…a mindful approach, even if I need to slow things down to really let it sink in.
7. What would you like to say to the young female musicians in jazz? What would you like to say to all the young musicians in general?
I would say to young musicians today: find a mentor to help you navigate the complex world of music. I had lessons with dozens of fantastic musicians and found that most of them did not really make good teachers. I kept trying however and came across a few key people that made a big difference. I am so grateful that I learned from them but also that I found them. Again, there is no straight line to the person who will connect with you. It really requires some diligence on your part to not only find a good teacher but also to know what you are hoping to learn from that person. A positive connection can reap many rewards so I would highly recommend it, especially if the teacher has a professional background