For Blinn College saxophonist Nigel Yarbrough, making music is all about building a relationship with the audience. It’s a skill that has made him one of the best community college musicians in the state.
“The number one thing about music is it’s based off passion,” he said. “When you hear a song, depending on how that song was played, how it was sung, it causes an expression that the audience can feel and react to. I love that experience.”
Yarbrough’s passion for music has fueled him from a 10th-chair saxophonist as a sixth grader at Claughton Middle School to the first-ever back-to-back winner of the Texas Community College Band Directors Association’s (TCCBDA) concerto competition in 2013 and ’14.
Competition is nothing new to the 20-year-old Yarbrough, and neither is playing at a level considered too difficult for his age.
With the help of Seth McAdow, an adjunct saxophone instructor at Sam Houston State University, Yarbrough was performing at a high school level by the eighth grade and placed fourth overall at the Westfield High School concerto competition despite being one of the youngest performers.
As a freshman at Blinn, he achieved the rare feat of winning the TCCBDA concerto competition with his rendition of “Tosca Fantasy” by Giacomo Puccini.
Then he did it again a year later.
“Nigel sets very high standards for himself,” Band Director Harry Blake said. “He’s continuingly looking to grow as a musician.”
In his desire to be among the best, Yarbrough continues to push himself to learn increasingly advanced pieces.
“I really like to be able to express what the saxophone can do,” Yarbrough said. “It’s a lot of tedious practice, and you have to be really nit-picky in the way you perform, the way you express notes and in the way you’re able to articulate the music. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding during a performance.”
In learning a new piece, Yarbrough will spend more than three hours a day perfecting it.
“Nigel is the hardest worker we have here at Blinn,” Professor Brian Klekar said. “We try to push him every chance we get. I expect great things from him one day.”
What that is exactly, Yarbrough hasn’t quite figured out.
“I might actually go into music education—if I can’t do everything,” he said.
The Blinn Department of Music consistently places more students in the Texas Community College All-State Band than any other community college. Blinn’s music department offers small classes, one-on-one attention, practical learning and a dedicated faculty so students are actively engaged in a superior learning environment. For more information, visit: www.blinn.edu/finearts/music.html.