Award-winning saxophonist helps BYU’s Synthesis bring home big band honors

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    By BRINTON WILKINS

    Sitting by his father in the living room of his house, a 5-year-old David Halliday began his journey towards a career as a professional jazz musician.

    “When I was 5 years old I had to know the difference between Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster,” said Halliday, 26, a junior from Vacaville, Calif., majoring in saxophone performance.

    Currently, Halliday plays tenor saxophone for BYU’s big band Synthesis. Halliday recently won, for the second year in a row, the award for best tenor saxophone soloist at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho, said Ray Smith, artistic director of Synthesis.

    “All of the solos are improvised,” Smith said. “And so usually people come away having had an exhilarating musical experience.”

    The road Halliday has followed to this point has crossed the country, intersected respected jazz musicians and led him to perform with professional artists.

    Halliday was drawn to jazz at a young age, he said.

    “I think the coolest thing about jazz is the freedom,” Halliday said. “It’s not aggressive.”

    With his interest in the music, it wasn’t long before Halliday picked up his first horn.

    “I started on the clarinet when I was nine,” Halliday said.

    Clarinet was followed by alto sax when he was 11 years old, and alto sax was followed by tenor sax when he was 15.

    “Tenor gets the most solos,” he said. “I find myself wanting to get as much exposure as I can.”

    Halliday met his musical idol when he was 14, he said.

    “When I was 14 or 15 years old I had the opportunity to study with a guy named Joe Henderson,” Halliday said.

    Hederson, a three-time Grammy winner, urged Halliday to perfect his music, Halliday said.

    For the last two years Halliday has toured with E. C. Scott, a blues singer. He played tenor sax on Scott’s album “Hard Act to Follow.”

    In 1999 Halliday transferred to BYU to study with Smith, after a brief stay at Loyola University in New Orleans.

    At the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Halliday’s talent won him not only the best soloist award, but it also helped Synthesis win the award for number one college big band, Smith said.

    Halliday’s next performance will be tonight and Saturday with Synthesis as a part of BYU’s Jazz Festival. Tickets are $5 with student ID; $8 without. They can be purchased at the HFAC Ticket Office.

    He will be featured as the soloist in Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” and in Jeff Lovell’s award-winning student composition, “Still Searching,” Smith said.

    Synthesis’ and Halliday’s performance will captivate audiences, he said.

    “We look for a lot of communication between the band and the audience.” He said.

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