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Faculty Spotlight: Geof Bradfield

By Benita Zepeda (BA '11)

Imagine teaching and rehearsing by day, and playing smooth saxophone by night in front of thousands at Millennium Park or at the historic club, Green Mill, in Uptown. Consider what it would be like to travel all over Europe, playing a different show every night from Switzerland to Germany and back. And envision what it’s like to go to Africa to compose a highly acclaimed record.

This is all a reality for Columbia Saxophone and Theory Instructor Geof Bradfield, who has three albums and countless performances under his belt, and a wealth of experience to share in the classroom.

“The best part about teaching for me as a professional saxophone player is the interaction with young musicians who are headed in a similar career direction,” Bradfield says. “That doesn’t mean it has to be a saxophone or jazz musician but someone who is serious and excited about music.”

Bradfield, who earned a BA in jazz studies at DePaul University, and in 1994, his MFA in jazz studies at California Institute of the Arts, has played the saxophone for 30 years. He joined the Columbia community in 2004 and is teaching courses such as Saxophone Studio as well as developing the jazz curriculum.

Although he plays in many groups, there are two in which he is the leader. One is B(a)SH, a trio with bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall. The second is his main project, the Geof Bradfield Sextet, which is the group with whom he played at Millennium Park in August and recorded his latest album, African Flowers, in 2010.

“African Flowers did quite well,” Bradfield says. “It made a lot of the Top 10 and Top 20 lists, including the LA Times, and that was great.”

He also plays with a myriad of groups as a sideman, including the Ryan Cohan Quartet/Sextet, Dana Hall’s Spring, Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, and the Chicago Yestet.

Now, between playing gigs and teaching courses, Bradfield is composing a piece based on the work of trombonist Melba Liston that the Geof Bradfield Sextet will premier in 2012 for his fellowship from the Black Metropolis Research Consortium.

In addition to his fellowship, he has received many awards, and recently won three commissions from Chamber Music America, and he did a short-term residency with the Hyde Park Arts Alliance in September.

Even though Bradfield says the life of a musician can be tough, he says there is a certain drive that keeps one going.

“Over the years, I had some serious questions as to whether [music] was the right decision to make,” he says. “But every time I think about what else I might do, I don’t have any other answer. There is nothing I would rather do.”