The Saxophone Players

John GottdienerJohn Gottdiener - Lead Tenor, Clarinet

John studied clarinet and saxophone in his native Brooklyn with Pat Nizza, an exceptional New York musician and teacher who recorded with Billy Holiday and Louis Armstrong. In high school, John was selected to be principal clarinetist with the All City High School Orchestra, comprised of the best young musicians from the five boroughs of NYC. In addition to a love of classical music, he has always had a strong interest in jazz, and was fortunate to have played summers and weekends in resorts in the Catskill Mountain "borscht belt" during the last of its heyday as a center of great live entertainment featuring current and future stars of American theater, cinema, and television. After a 10 year absence from performing he resumed clarinet studies with Loren Kitt of the National Symphony Orchestra, and has since been active in both classical and jazz performances in the Washington DC area and New York, including solo, chamber music and orchestral performances in the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Corcoran Gallery, and recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in St. Petersburg (Russia) with members of the St. Petersburg Orchestra, as well as jazz and swing band performances with the Olney Big Band, Bayside Big Band, and the Doc Scantlin Imperial Palms Orchestra. When not involved with his musical activities, he serves as Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and director of the echocardiography laboratory at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

Murray Green - Lead Alto

Murray hails from New Orleans LA, the last in a family of ten, where all children were introduced to music. He was influenced by his older brothers, a tenor sax player, a bass guitar player and two trumpet players. “My oldest brother’s tone on the trumpet was one of the best I’ve ever heard”.

Murray joined the Olney Big Band in late 2003 playing tenor II saxophone. At the time, he said he was “just getting back into playing music after a long hiatus”. He had started playing music again with his son, who at the time was coming along as a 7th grade saxophone player. After a year or so, his son discovered football and began to focus his attention elsewhere. But the flame had been reignited in Murray, a one time marching band captain and jazz combo leader. He found the Olney Big Band through his membership in the Olney Community Band.

After a few months, the lead alto sax player left the Band, putting the troupe in a quandary. Murray stepped up and said, “I’ve just bought an alto sax. May I try out for the lead alto job?” He did, they listened, and the rest is history.

It took a while for Murray to become comfortable with his alto sax, and a little longer for him to become comfortable with the ins and outs of leading the sax section. But his love for music and his desire to work hard have proven to be assets, to the enjoyment of the Band and their audiences.

His favorite genre of music is Hard Bop and his favorite sax player is Cannoball Adderly. He is an IT professional with an affinity for logic and a love for the sciences. But his joy is easily seen when the band is swinging. “I never thought I would do this again. I’m enjoying every minute.”

Bill KleinBill Klein - Alto Sax - Tenor Sax- Clarinet

Bill started loving the saxophone as a young child watching his harmonica-playing father’s combo rehearse in the living room. He then began studying alto sax in elementary school and added the clarinet in high school, where he won the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award. Since then, Bill has played alto and tenor sax in a wide variety of jazz ensembles, Big Bands, jazz combos, and concert bands.

A major highlight was playing lead alto sax in the Princeton University Jazz Ensemble during four years of graduate school. The band toured North America and played by invitation at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Villanova Jazz Festival, Notre Dame Jazz Festival, International Association of Jazz Educators annual meeting, and many other venues; performed with the likes of Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Stanley Jordan, and Terence Blanchard; and recorded two albums. Following graduate school, Bill accepted a faculty position at Colby College in Maine where he played regularly with the Colby College Jazz Ensemble, Maine Jazz Educators Ensemble (performing live on Maine Public Radio), Al Corey Big Band, Fire and Nice Big Band, and Pandemusicum.

More recently, Bill played lead tenor for the group Big Band Memories and alto for the Washington Swing Orchestra – two leading swing bands in Pittsburgh – where he was on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. Bill has performed in the pit orchestra for several musical productions including My Fair Lady, City of Angels, and Cabaret. His regular gig is as Director of the Behavioral Research Program at the National Cancer Institute, prompting his family’s move to the Washington DC area in 2009.

Dave SchumerDave Schumer - Baritone, Tenor, Alto Saxes; Clarinet

Dave anchors the band’s sax section on baritone saxophone.  Born in Passaic and raised in Clifton, New Jersey a bedroom community of Manhattan, he started saxophone lessons in 6th grade as part of the school’s music program.  In high school he studied clarinet and played alto, tenor, and baritone sax in the school’s concert, marching, and jazz ensembles.  A member of the high school’s big band, one of his biggest thrills came when he got to perform on the stage of the Central Theatre in Passaic, N.J.  The theatre which  seats over 2,000 people was the same one where Glenn Miller performed his last commercial concert before being commissioned into the Army on September 27, 1942.  After high school David studied music at Florida State University, but after two years had a change of heart and went on to attain a degree in Business Administration majoring in accounting. After graduation he accepted a position as an internal auditor with the U.S. Army Audit Agency in New York and finished up his career with the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.  It was after retirement that he got serious again about music and started playing initially with several ensembles in the metropolitan area including the Olney Concert Band.  With the birth of the Olney Jazz Troupe (OBB) in 2003; then an off shoot of the concert band, he fell in love all over again playing the big band music he loved and enjoyed as a teenager.

Sua VasakasSue Vazakas - Tenor

Born in Philadelphia, Pennslyvania, Sue grew up in central New Jersey. After several years of piano lessons, she began studying the saxophone at age 10. She played saxophone and percussion for many years with the historic Blawenburg Band, which is the oldest band in New Jersey. She holds a doctorate in bioethics from Boston University and manages the Science and Engineering Library at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. She tells this story about her musical career: While in 5th grade, the band leader came around and asked what we wanted to play. I asked for drums, but he said that they already had lots of kids who wanted to play drums. How about saxophone? Sure, I said, not having a clue what that was.

It finally arrived, my brand new Selmer Bundy alto sax! Do you remember the scene in “The Music Man” where the Wells Fargo Wagon delivers the band instruments to River City, and little Ronny Howard babbles joyfully about “what a beautiful shiny gold thing!”? That was me!

Several decades and musical groups later, Sue plays with OBB and the Olney Community Band. Just three years ago she switched to tenor sax, and has huge fun playing it.

Sue believes she will be playing her tenor to a venerable age, and become the role model for high school kids and others who will realize that you can pick your instrument back up at any age – there’s always a place to play.