On ROOT, classical saxophonist and music theorist Jessica Dodge-Overstreet harnesses the ethereal, almost-vocal timbre of the soprano saxophone. Accompanied only by pianist Wan-Ting Yu, Dodge-Overstreet performs music written by a culturally-diverse cast of female composers including Ika Peyron, Germaine Tailleferre, Dora Pejačević, and Teresa Milanollo.
Today, Jessica is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn how running and the great outdoors helps her reach a creative state of mind…
What emotions do you hope listeners will experience after hearing your work?
To me, there’s a certain fantasy embedded in this music. The women who wrote this had both extraordinary lives as artists, and ordinary lives as wives and mothers. As “romanticizing” daily life has become somewhat of a trend, I like to imagine that these women were doing just that 150 years ago. I hope that listeners will come to this music with a presence of mind and a curiosity to discover and experience that fantasy and romanticization. From majestic, to bleak, to downright silly, the music on this project has so much range, just like our “mundane” lives.
How have your influences changed as you grow as a musician?
I think I started out being influenced most heavily by the music I was making. Like many wind musicians in the United States, I learned to play during my public school’s band classes. So, for many years, wind band was the main place I found my musical inspiration. From there, I discovered the saxophone as a solo voice and voraciously listened to any and every saxophone player I could find. Eventually, I sort of took off my blinders and discovered what a tiny corner of the musical world those things occupied. From there, I really enjoyed diving into the wider world of music making and exploring both the depth of Western Art Music and other culture’s music. At the moment, art song (Rachmaninov’s especially!) has been heavy on my rotation.
What were your first musical experiences?
My parents are both amateur musicians who had played in band during high school and college, so naturally it was unspoken that we would join band in school once we were old enough. That being said, my musical experiences before high school were essentially just radio in the car and school band. Once I got to high school, the world opened up. My band director got us preview tickets to see the Nevada Opera’s performance of Carmen, and in the same month I saw the Reno Philharmonic for the first time. From there, my fate was sealed. I instantly fell in love with the passion, energy, and power that came from all these artists working together. After those performances and several others, I began working toward a performance career of my own to share my own passion and energy with audiences.
What are your other passions besides music?
I love to explore the outdoors as a runner, hiker, walker, or whatever-er and do my best to get outside for one or two of those activities every day. I was so lucky to be born just a few miles from beautiful and fairly secluded trails to enjoy, and am thrilled to have returned after finishing my degrees. Whether it’s a trail run along the historic Virginia and Truckee, a hike along the Tahoe Rim Trail, or a walk by the Carson River, there is gorgeous nature all around me. While my 16 year old cairn terrier Duckie has mostly aged out of being my companion, my two year old son is starting to take over for her.
Where and when are you at your most creative?
I find long runs and the practice sessions on days where I’ve had a long run to be my most creative. For me, running is almost like meditation. I can let my mind wander, take in the beautiful nature all around me, or just focus on my breathing. This just gets things churning the right way in my brain and I often find that I have deeper focus and more creative thinking for the rest of the day, especially with the horn in my hands.
Tell us about your first performance
My first performance was surely Hot Cross Buns in my 5th grade cafeteria, but in high school my band director let me perform my very first concerto with our wind band. I remember walking into the first rehearsals for the piece in awe of the power and presence behind me. At the performance I remember worrying about hitting all my high notes, but that feeling was overshadowed by the delight of making music with my friends. This sort of giddy feeling comes with me through all of my performances. I feel so lucky to bring music to life each and every time I get the opportunity.