Posted on 03/30/15 by in Fascinating Rhythms
By Jennifer Abelson
Ken LeeGrand is the department head of J@MS, a TMS saxophone instructor, and is the resident artist for Shaker Heights School District. This esteemed saxophone instructor has performed with Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Miracles, Arthur Fielder, and so many other talented musicians. His group, Horns and Things, has opened for Freddie Hubbard, Ronnie Laws, and Joe Sample (to name a few). He’s played throughout Northeast Ohio, the United States, and Europe, and is always delighted to talk about one of his greatest passions: teaching.
The Music Settlement: Tell us about your path to music.
Ken: When I was a child, I wanted to play the saxophone. When I say a child, I mean four years old! We had lunch in downtown Cleveland--there were no malls yet, so everyone went downtown. We walked past a music store that had a low window and there was a sax in the window and I got so excited. I got so excited I lost my lunch on the sidewalk! When I started playing in East Cleveland schools, my Band Director told me if I started with clarinet, I would be able to switch to other instruments. I wasn’t too excited at first, because I still really wanted to play sax. But when I got to junior high in 7th grade, I was able to get my hands on a sax at school because there were saxophones at school. I continued playing clarinet all through college, but my passion for saxophone became real.
The Music Settlement: In your own words, why do TMS and J@MS matter?
Ken: The opportunities that the kids create for themselves through music are incredible. All my seniors have done their auditions and are starting to see acceptances. It’s really amazing. I don’t do it alone though. The support of the school and the faculty is tremendous. We talk a lot about our mission and what we’re trying to do for our students. It’s so important for us to see them excel, in all aspects of their life.
The Music Settlement: What do you hope your students learn? What are your hopes for your students?
Ken: There are so many life lessons that go into teaching. I believe that a private teacher develops a special relationship with a student because we see them year, after year, after year. The relationship becomes personal--some of the things they talk to you about are outside of music. The discipline of playing music, yes, is something we teach them...but it permeates everything you do. It makes you have a higher standard.
The Music Settlement: Why do you have to have a higher standard to be a musician?
Ken: To be a high-level musician, you must be as close to perfect as humanly possible. Let’s look at baseball--it’s a game based on failure. If you bat 350 for your career, you’ll be in the Hall of Fame, but that means you miss 65% of the time. If you miss 65% of the notes you are playing, people are going to tell you to find something else to do. When I tell my students this story, they understand that they need to expect as close to perfection as humanly possible for themselves.
The Music Settlement: Why should Cleveland care about J@MS and The Music Settlement’s upcoming gala?
Ken: The gala is an opportunity for Cleveland to support these great kids. They are really trying to do something that’s so positive. I also believe that some of these kids are going to come back to The Music Settlement because of their experience here--The Music Settlement has helped them become something they didn’t think they achieve. I really believe that.
The Music Settlement: You’ve worked at The Music Settlement for quite some time. Can you share anything else about the programs there?
Ken: I think the one thing I have seen about The Music Settlement is that they really have something for everyone. If you want to play music, there is something there for you. I’ve never been any place or seen any place where the mission is carried out--not just by J@MS--but everyone in that campus. Everyone believes in reaching out to assist the kids to become the best kids they can be. We try to help shape them be good people first, and then good musicians. How many kids get told that they are important? When you are in an ensemble, you matter. These kids get told that they matter each and every day. And when everyone has that common goal of helping these kids believe in themselves, it helps shape their life for the better.
Support The Music Settlement’s mission and join us at Fascinating Rhythms, The Music Settlement’s Gala, on May 2. Tickets are available here.
To see Ken LeeGrand in action with J@MS students, please click here.