Love of music spurs saxophonist

Emily Van Veen’s senior recital is coming up soon, and even though she had a relatively late start playing the saxophone, it’s been on her mind since she was still in diapers.

Senior Emily Van Veen has been playing the saxophone since she was in 10th grade. After graduation, Van Veen hopes to teach band or general music classes. Photo by Andrew Smith

“I’ve been interested in the saxophone for a long time ,” Van Veen said. “When I was two, I had a toy sax that I used to play all the time. It’s just always stuck with me.”

Although saxophone is her main focus now, Van Veen had a different musical interest that came first.

“I started playing piano when I was eight and continued with that until I found the saxophone in 10th grade,” Van Veen said. “I realized how much I enjoyed it and that’s when my love of music really started. Music just has this ability to touch your soul on a level that you can’t really describe.”

Van Veen acknowledges that without her background in piano, it would have been a lot harder to improve her saxophone skills.

“My piano basis helped a lot with picking up the saxophone. You learn basic things about note reading, tempo and dynamics that are really important.”

By her senior year in high school, Van Veen knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. The next step was challenging herself on a much larger scale than the 20-student music department at Abundant Life Christian School.

She decided to apply for the Wisconsin State Honors Music Project, and after being accepted, Van Veen worked harder at her craft then ever before.

“We rehearsed eight hours a day for about a week and we banded together quickly,” Van Veen said. “All we had was the music in common, and that was our soul focus. The whole experience really confirmed my decision to pursue music.”

When it came time to decide on a college to attend, Van Veen narrowed her decision down to two choices: Luther College in Iowa and UW-Whitewater.

Whitewater won out and one of the biggest reasons was the connection Van Veen had with the adviser she would be spending most of her time with, Dr. Matthew Sintchak.

“When you’re a music major, you spend a lot of time with your primary adviser,” Van Veen said. “I met with Dr. Sintchak, and things just kind of clicked. It’s really important that you get along with your studio professor, and I did.”

Sintchak has watched Van Veen grow and perfect her craft ever since he first started working with her in fall 2008.

“Emily has been a great student to work with,” Sintchak said. She picks things up very rapidly and she has really accomplished a great deal while she’s been here.”

Recently, Sintchak has helped Van Veen get better acquainted with Japanese saxophone music, a style she’s really taken a liking to.

“Last spring when I was just researching pieces for my recital, I noticed that all these pieces I really enjoyed were by Japanese composers,” Van Veen said. “I have a big interest in it now, three of the pieces in my recital will be by Japanese composers and I’m actually doing an undergraduate research grant on it.”

Aside from the three Japanese pieces, Van Veen will have four others she’ll perform for her senior recital.

It’s scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 at the Light Recital Hall in the Center of the Arts.

Van Veen has not yet decided what she wishes to pursue after graduating.

“My major is music education with an emphasis in instrumental music and general music,” Van Veen said. “I’ll be certified to teach music so right now I have some interest in teaching either band classes to grades 6-12 or general music to K-12.”

However, there is still another option Van Veen could pursue.

“I’ve considered doing a music performance major,” Van Veen said. “But I chose the music education route because it really allows me to give to others and share my love of music with them.”

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