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Congratulations Julian Velasco!

Julian Velasco is a Chicago-based saxophonist whose artistic vision aspires to reflect and celebrate the plurality of our society. Raised in the diverse musical culture of Los Angeles and of Mexican-Canadian heritage, his own musical background draws from classical, jazz, experimental, and popular styles whose influences inform his approach to all music. Julian is the soprano saxophonist of ~Nois saxophone quartet and a founding member of indie-pop trio Dial-Up Stepmom. Julian’s passion for collaborating with living composers has led him to premiere more than 30 works from composers including Billy Childs, David Biedenbender, Oznat Netzer, Zhou Tian, and Annika Socolofsky.

A 2020 Luminarts Fellow in Classical Music, Julian has garnered top prizes from organizations including Music Teachers National Association, Vandoren Emerging Artists, Yamaha Young Performing Artists, and North American Saxophone Alliance. Julian holds degrees from Northwestern University, where he is currently a doctoral candidate, and Michigan State University, where was he was one of the only students to receive degrees in both Classical and Jazz Performance.

Julian will work with Cedille to record his album in the first part of 2022 with release expected in late-summer. Congratulations Julian!

Learn more about Julian through the video and interview below.

Music by ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH: Quintet for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet, 3rd movement. Performed by Otis Murphy and the Pacifica Quartet.

How did you become a musician?

As the son of a professional cellist and a saxophonist, my parents raised me in a very creative household. I was lucky to have parents that encouraged me and offered guidance in my own exploration of making music. I started off as pianist from ages 3-10 but decided to pick up saxophone in order to join my middle school band program. I was like many others who have picked up the instrument, I thought it was also really cool. After I began studying the saxophone, I was lucky to have a team of amazing mentors that have been invaluable to my growth. Whether it be sharing recordings, offering advice, or encouraging me to pursue my dream projects, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am without strong team that believed in me every step of the way. As time went on and the deeper I got into the music community the more I fell in love with this way of life. By the time I had to decide on pursuing music professionally it was an easy choice.

What artists and genres have influenced you?

One of my favorite aspects of saxophone is that it has had a place in almost all Western music for the past 100 years. In that way, most of their music from the 20th and 21st century has influenced me to some degree. Specifically there are recordings that have changed my life from the first listen. I still vividly remember the first time I heard the albums: Claude Delangle’s “A La Francaise”, Chris Potter’s “Follow the Red Line”, and Jascha Heifetz’s “Mendelssohn & Bruch: Violin Concertos”. Each one had such a seminal impact on the way I think about music. There are too many other records and artists that I have fallen in love with along the way to list here, but I definitely have been affected by musicians that fall all along the spectrum of genre and classification.

Who is your dream collaborator?

Justin Vernon. He is one of the most fascinating contemporary musicians to me. I discovered his music much later in my life, but from the first listen of Bon Iver’s “22, A Million” there was something in the music that instantly connected with me. He countless projects as a performer, producer and songwriter are all so different, but his own sound is undeniably and authentically present at all times. I really have no idea what it would sound like if we worked together, but that is also what excites me the most about it.

Tell us about the concept of your album.

I want this album to not only be a reflection of my own artistic voice, but also a way to showcase some of the great music that is being written with saxophone in Chicago. I would like to share some of the great new contemporary works for my instrument. Some of my favorite works with saxophone are written by composers who have strong ties to Chicago, and I think it would be incredible to bring this music to a larger audience.

List three words that describe your artistic style.

Engaging, emotive, authentic.

What do you find most exciting/unique about Chicago’s Music Scene?

Chicago’s music scene is home to some of the finest players in the world in many different musical genres. From classical, blues, pop, and everything in between, these musicians of different groups often come together to make music as one. That’s not to say other cities do not do this to varying degrees, but there is a unique celebration of diversity within Chicago’s culture that I feel which made me fall in love with this city.

How will this record affect your career as an emerging artist?

There is so much great music to be made with the saxophone and I want this record to be my way of formally introducing myself to the larger Chicago music scene. It is a great honor to represent the saxophone in this competition, and my vision as an emerging artist is to continue to advocate for the instrument in the larger community of classical music. By sharing my own voice and approach to these great works for saxophone, I hope that this will help me springboard to future projects with composers and collaborators both within the Chicago community and on a national level.


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