Q&A with professional musician and BIG ARTS instructor Jennifer Valiquette
Where did you grow up? : I grew up in Weston, Conn., and when I was 13 I moved to Sanibel Island with my parents.
When did you first discover that you had a talent/passion for music? : I took piano lessons when I was younger, around six or seven years old, but I quit to play flute. When I joined the middle school band, I started taking private flute lessons and I realized how much I loved music. I was in the marching band, Jazz band and concert band throughout middle school and high school and in college I was a member of the Florida State University Marching Chiefs, a 450 piece marching band.
How do you describe your musical style? Do you write your own songs?: Classical is my favorite style of music to play. I play classical saxophone, which is unusual because many people know saxophone for the jazz style. I play jazz as well, but classical is my favorite. Currently I am creating my own CD of classical saxophone music from the early to late 1900s. I do not write my own songs, but I do a lot of recordings. I do know how to improvise, and I have a very good ear, which means that I can listen to a note and sometimes be able to tell what it is and play it back depending on the music’s difficulty level. That was developed through years and years of performing. I have performed with Danny Morgan at Traders and Twilight Cafe without rehearsals and have learned quite a bit from performing with him.
What’s your favorite song?: If I had to pick a favorite, it would be “Escapades” by John Williams. It’s an incredible piece for alto saxophone from the movie “Catch Me if You Can.” This is a classical piece, and someday I would like to perform it live myself, as I am learning it now. My professor Dr. Weremchuk performed it with a Symphony in Orlando.
What was your most memorable performance? : My most memorable performance was my senior recital at University of Central Florida. I had performed for 30 minutes onstage, just myself and my accompanist. (This performance is available on my website, www.myspace.com/prudsax08).
How many instruments do you know how to play and which one is your favorite? : Saxophone is what I studied in music school and is my primary instrument, but I can also play, flute, piccolo, irish flute, Irish Tin Whistle and piano. At my house I have an alto sax, tenor sax, three flutes (two student models and one pro model) and a keyboard.
What instrument would you want to learn how to play? : Guitar — if I actually had time for another instrument, that would be it.
Where do you work? : Sanibel Captiva Community bank, as the bank’s receptionist. I also work at BIG ARTS on Sanibel and Guitar Studio in Fort Myers as a private music instructor.
What do you like to do for fun?: I enjoy going on the boat, hanging out with my family and friends. I also love watching movies and listening to music. Of course, I love practicing all my instruments in my spare time.
What’s your family like? : My family is great. My Dad is Michael Valiquette and my mother is Maureen Valiquette. I have a brother named Justin who has a wife (Abbey) and four kids (Bryce, Addison, Cayden and Isabella). My parents are both the founders of PURRE (People United to Restore Our Rivers & Estuaries). They enjoy doing volunteer work for organizations, and they also put quite a bit of time into the PURRE organization. My Dad also owns Sandcastle Construction on the Island and is on the planning commission. I decided to move to Fort Myers to be closer to them.
Where can people listen to you play?: I have performed with the Community Band on Sanibel, but I have also performed in Orlando. I was first chair alto saxophone with the University of Central Florida Concert Band. I also performed in saxophone quartets led by Dr. Wermchuk (my professor). Currently, I am going to be performing with the Edison State College Band on alto saxophone. Rehearsals start on soon, so I will find out more about performances later on. Check local newspapers and the Edison Community State College website for more information. I also plan on giving my own recital sometime in the near future once my CD is completed.
What advice would you give someone who is becoming frustrated with learning to play a musical instrument? : When playing a musical instrument it takes time and patience. If you are struggling with one particular problem, then continue to learn it slowly. Always take it slow. Altissimo is an example of this. Altissimo is anything beyond the range of the instrument. For saxophones, it would be any note above a high F. It took me quite some time to hit a high G on the saxophone, but I did eventually hit it. It took working on long tones, scales,and overtones (even as a professional, I still practice scales). Patience is a virtue and in the end it is worth the wait.
Who is the one person that you would love to perform with?: John Williams. I absolutely love his music in all aspects.
What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?: I have two degrees. My first degree came from Florida State University where I studied Criminology and graduated with a BS in Criminology. I volunteered for Sanibel Police as a police explorer for many years, and then I decided I wanted to become a cop. I went to the police academy in 2001 and graduated. After working for Sanibel Police as a Police Aide, and the Sheriff’s office later on as a Jail Clerk, I decided to pursue my career in music. My second degree is a Bachelors of Arts in Music from the University of Central Florida Music School, where I studied under Dr. Weremchuk for saxophone as my primary instrument, and under Dr. Garcia for flute as a secondary instrument. Both professors are master musicians who have incredible backgrounds. Before I went to music school, I also studied under Woody Brubaker (who plays at the Mermaid Kitchen) and Bill Larson (First Chair flutist for the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra).
What are you plans for the future?: I am currently working on a new classical saxophone CD. It will take some time to produce it, but I will have it out within a year or two. I also plan on continuing to perform with the Edison State Concert band and I will continue to teach my private lessons in the meantime. I would like to start up a saxophone quartet in Fort Myers someday.