How a Pioneering Jazz Musician and Teacher Spends Her Sundays

Pioneering Jazz Musician

There weren’t many female jazz musicians when Carol Sudhalter started her career. Now she spends her Sundays sharing what she has learned.

Although Carol Sudhalter’s first love was the flute, she was also seduced by the saxophone early in her career as a jazz musician.

“Playing different instruments allows me to expand my emotional palette,” she said. “The sax has the opposite personality of the flute, which tends to be politely petite, and it allows me to express a wide spectrum of emotions: It can be gruff, aggressive, gentle.”

In the early days of her career, in the late 1970s, Ms. Sudhalter attracted a lot of attention, because female players were rare.

“Women saxophonists like Camille Thurman and Lakecia Benjamin are now superstars,” Ms. Sudhalter, 81, said. “It’s a point of pride and joy for me that the virtuosity and recognition of women players has expanded so much since then.”

Ms. Sudhalter, who grew up in a musical family in Boston and graduated from Smith College, got her big break in 1978 when she moved to New York City to join Latin Fever, the first all-female Latin band. She founded the 18-member Astoria Big Band and has been a music teacher for over four decades. She gives private sax, flute and piano lessons to 20 students on Long Island each week.

She has lived in the same two-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens, since 1980. Ms. Sudhalter used to have roommates, but these days she shares the space with six saxophones, three clarinets, three flutes, a piccolo, a bass clarinet and a flugelhorn.

I get up between 7 and 8, the same time I do every day. I do set an alarm clock, but I wake up before it rings. And I always have the same thing for breakfast: muesli with no sugar and yogurt, a ton of vitamins and a cup of black coffee.

I also do culinary preparation for the week. As a house-to-house music teacher at least four times a week, I pack a lunch. I make a big pot of soup, usually vegetable or bean, sauces like pesto, mayonnaise and horseradish, and other dips like hummus and tzatziki to liven up the dishes. I also bake a batch of almond-flour lemon cookies sweetened with monk fruit, or I make banana bread.

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