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Chris Madsen: “Published Music Method Books Can Be Helpful, but the Act of Transcribing Something That You Want to Learn Is Invaluable”


This interview with saxophonist Chris Madsen offers a comprehensive exploration of his musical journey, educational background, and instructional philosophy. Originating from the vibrant music scene of Chicago, Madsen credits his formative years to a dedicated high school band program under the guidance of the legendary Don Shupe. Pursuing Jazz Studies at DePaul University, he was mentored by influential figures such as Mark Colby and Thomas Matta.

The pivotal three years at the Juilliard School in New York City marked a transformative period for Madsen, where he studied with saxophonist Victor Goines. Returning to Chicago in 2006, Madsen has since actively contributed to the city’s musical landscape while balancing a significant career in academia. His teaching tenure at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, coupled with part-time instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, underscores his commitment to music education.

In the interview, Madsen articulates his teaching philosophy, emphasizing the reciprocal nature of instruction and its impact on self-evaluation. The saxophonist advocates for individualized methods derived from transcription, expressing reservations about the limitations of standardized method books.

Madsen provides insights into his rigorous daily saxophone routine, focusing on speed and improvisational challenges. Addressing equipment preferences, he endorses Selmer saxophones and Vandoren mouthpieces, citing their unparalleled construction and sonic qualities.

Aspiring students can locate Madsen at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where his teaching style is characterized by a balance of rigor and empathy. While detailing common challenges faced by young musicians, Madsen highlights the impact of instant gratification expectations fostered by social media and streaming platforms, emphasizing the enduring nature of jazz education as a gradual, lifelong pursuit.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music