When he picked up a clarinet at age 7, Harvey Pittel never dreamed he would become one of the world’s most respected classical saxophone performers.
Pittel,who will take the Performing Arts Center Recital Hall stage Nov. 18 as part of Texas State’s International Concert Series, said he has been credited as a soloist in eight major New York performances.
Pittel said the stutter he had as a child pushed him to succeed in the music industry.
“I was a severe stutterer from age 5, and I think that had a lot to do with my love for music,” Pittel said. “So, at age 7 I started playing clarinet at my public school in Los Angeles.”
Pittel said he switched to the saxophone when he was 20, although his stuttering did not diminish until he was 27.
Pittel said playing with orchestras and in festivals across the country showed him it was possible to have a successful career with his stutter.
“Playing would give me confidence and, psychologically, that helped me overcome stuttering,” Pittel said. “I have now played Carnegie and had my name shown to everybody.”
Pittel said he first discovered the classical saxophone at a party when one of his neighbors played a song for him.
“When I heard the saxophone, it became my dream to become a classical saxophone performer,” Pittel said.
Pittel said his middle school teacher helped him learn the basics.
“My junior high school orchestra director was a great viola and saxophone player and he taught me the fingerings on the saxophone when I was about 15,” Pittel said.
Todd Oxford, saxophone and chamber music assistant professor, believes Pittel’s success comes from hard work and dedication to the instrument.
“He is incredibly talented. He is incredibly diligent and persistent,” Oxford said. “Being a performing musician takes a lot of salesmanship.”
Oxford said he is excited for aspiring musicians at Texas State to hear Pittel perform.
“The level of emotion he creates is world-class,” Oxford said. “I mean, the man is 72 years old and he’s still as excited to perform as he was when I first met him back in the ‘80s.”
Oxford said he sees no reason for Pittel to stop performing, even though the performer is in his early 70s.
Pittel said his most memorable performance was at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York as a soloist with the Boston Symphony.
“After the concert, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland congratulated me and we went out to dinner,” Pittel said.
Pittel said Bernstein and Copland are two of the most famous composers to date.
Oxford said Pittel makes a good role model for any aspiring musician.
“He’s one of the most highly respected classical saxophone performers in the United States and around the world,” Oxford said.
Pittel advises aspiring musicians that it is always important to practice.
“I prepare every day, all the time as a classical saxophone player,” Pittel said. “Follow your dreams. That’s the general advice I give to anybody.”