Saturday, February 24, 2024

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Sound Circuit

Tommy Doggett


Photo by Jami Milne

As a saxophone player, Tommy Doggett’s musical path has experienced numerous curves, not only in teaching and performing, but among a variety of music genres over the years.

He’s played contemporary, rock and roll, soul, funk and jazz for major audiences. The saxophone is often associated with jazz, but it’s much more. 

“Sometimes, the saxophone is a preconceived notion about what it sounds like, that it’s all jazz,” he explains.

His album, called “Lines + Lineage,” was recently recorded. He will perform with a full band at an all-ages album release concert on Sunday, Feb. 18 at xBk. 

The album is comprised of folks who have influenced Doggett over the years. The idea developed when he was chatting with his future wife, who noticed he talked about his family frequently, suggesting he write about them. 

His instrumental music doesn’t contain lyrics. But, in his mind, he recalled his Grandma Mildred climbing a tree. He remembers special family members who passed away. While rehearsing, he aspired to tell real stories during a live performance. He explains how the storytelling relates to instrumental music. 

“A lot of instrumental music, you don’t know what to listen for,” he said. “I took an abstract idea, and the music follows.”

The audience is receptive to his stories. 

“During intermission, the audience shares stories about their family. All of a sudden, there’s a connection with my music,” he explains.

Doggett played saxophone in high school but never aspired to be a band director. He played in an orchestra, rock bands, electronic groups and taught saxophone lessons. 

One rock group he played in, “Freestyle,” was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. 

“I initially said ‘no’ to them, but once I joined, it sounded great. When they asked me to go to the induction, they explained that I helped keep the band going,” he says. “It’s a great honor to be a part of it.”

Another no turned into a yes when he thought about teaching music. While working at the Guitar Center, someone mentioned that he didn’t need to go back to school for a full four years for a teaching degree. Instead, he completed his education, and he’s now in his seventh year as the Urbandale High School’s band instructor. He teaches concert, marching, jazz and musical theater. Because of his varied musical experience, he feels comfortable and confident talking about the music industry to his students.

“I can be honest about it. I tell them, ‘Here is how to make it easier, don’t make my mistakes.’ I give them straight talk. It’s not just getting up on stage. It’s unloading a truck and promoting yourself,” he says. 

Doggett says it is important to invite his students to sit in on performances outside of school, which follows in the footsteps of his mentor, Greg. 

“I want to continue in that tradition, where they sit on stage without notes and improvising,” he said.

Doggett once sat in with some buddies who were considering a new band in 2008. As they chatted, he discovered one potential member was Slipknot’s Corey Taylor. 

“It really showed me that music is not one-dimensional. We were talking about a funk project,” he said. “It’s always inspiring learning and listening to different types of music.”

Doggett enjoys performing on stage, as he gains immediate feedback from the audience. He says he feels selfish when wanting to play just for himself. 

“It gives me time with my saxophone,” he explains. “Music makes sense to me. I love the quote, ‘music says what we can’t put into words.’ It’s therapeutic for me, and I play for the joy of it.”

Tickets for the Feb. 18 show at xBk cost $15 in advance; $20 day of show from  

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