By Leader-Telegram staff

Editor’s note: Kenni Holmen, a Twin Cities saxophonist with an impressive and varied list of credits, is working and performing with Menomonie High School music students on Monday. In response to emailed questions, he shared the following written thoughts about his upcoming visit:

The making of music is such a shared and interactive thing. Whether it’s the musicians who play or the audience who listens we all do it together. When a musician can listen to others, (especially in a live setting), ideas and experiences can be shared in such a tangible way that there is an amazing opportunity for growth!

When I was in high school an incredible saxophonist, Dick Oates, happened to be one of the guests for our jazz festival. (He is one of world’s great jazz saxophone players living out of New York.) You can imagine me hearing him play live for the first time! It really changed my life! It also inspired me to listen to other great players! I couldn’t wait to connect with all of the new music out there!

That’s why I can’t wait to connect with the students of Menomonie and share ideas and experiences. I have found, when listening to students (or anyone), I will hear something interesting or unusual, an idea or sound effect that I wouldn’t have thought of before. So when we play at the upcoming jazz concert I like to think of it as an opportunity for a two-way exchange of ideas!

When talking to younger musicians I like to stress the importance of being versatile! Be good at a number of things. Play multiple instruments. Learn different styles (rock, jazz, classical, any style). Write music, record music, do production. Read music, work on ear training. Listen to others and copy them! You never know when you will need all of those skills!

Another important thing is never say no to new opportunities. If you get asked to write a string quartet but don’t know how, learn as fast as you can or get someone to help you. Everyone is going to fail at things throughout life, but you can always learn from the experience.

Two people that I have had the chance to play with who I really respect are Doc Severinsen (one of the world’s great trumpet players who led “The Tonight Show Band” for years) and rock star legend Prince. Both of these artists are supremely talented and have something in common. They would work, work work! Continuously, relentlessly, hours and hours every day.

I remember hearing about a student (an excellent player) who asked Doc if he thought he was good enough to be a professional musician. Doc, always being upfront and honest, said if you have to ask that question then maybe the answer is no — implying that one of the most important aspects of being a successful person or musician is having that drive and passion. The kind that can take over your life in the best way possible.

If you work hard enough everything will take care of itself. You will be successful no matter what path you chose. There is a saying; “You don’t choose the music. The music chooses you!”

Usually the last thing I like to leave with students is to make sure you choose a path or career that gives you joy. Try and be the best at that! It’s easier to give joy back to others if you are joyful!

I have been so fortunate and blessed to have been asked to play with a number of amazing groups, people and genres over the years! Traveling with Doc Severinsen, also with Broadway shows such as “Aladdin” have been amazing! Touring with Cory Wong and also with The New Power Generation (Prince), playing with the Hornheads (who were Prince’s horn section since 1992), and playing with Stevie Wonder at the Prince memorial concert have been some of the most fun moments of my life!

One of perks and blessings of sharing music is the chance to meet so many amazing people. I’ve found that as great as these players are they are even more amazing as people! Students and professionals alike!

I am really looking forward to meeting and sharing music with all of the amazing students and wonderful people from Menomonie!!