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What's Up Magazine

Meet the Artist Jeff Antoniuk

Apr 04, 2012 01:13PM ● By Anonymous
Many of us bumble around for a while until we find something we can do passably well. The lucky ones, though, are born with an inherent love for something. Jazz saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk is one such person.

Antoniuk started playing classical piano in first grade in his hometown of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. He kept studying for several years, even when his family lived in Nigeria for a time. In seventh grade, he picked up the saxophone. “After playing jazz, funk, rock, and Latin styles in junior high and high school, I was hooked. I had planned to become a scientist, but before I went off to university to study math and physics, I decided to take a year off and study jazz at a local college,” he says. “I soon realized I couldn’t ‘play music out of my system,’ and put science aside.”

From that point on, Antoniuk pursued his jazz career full force. After a year’s worth of overnight shifts in a factory, he’d earned enough money to head to the world-famous jazz school, The University of North Texas. A few years later, he was the proud holder of a master’s degree in jazz performance and West African ethnomusicology. After spending four years as an artist in residence for the National Endowment for the Arts, Antoniuk moved to Annapolis in May of 1996.

“The group that I had co-founded and was playing with at the time, The Unified Jazz Ensemble, decided to relocate to Annapolis,” he says. “My first gig in town was at the Annapolis Jazz Fest, the day after I arrived!”

Now, he and his current band, Jeff Antoniuk and The Jazz Update, are meeting well-deserved success. “At the end of my concerts, folks often tell me ‘I don't really like jazz, but I sure like what you are doing,’” he says. “When audiences hear jazz played well, they become aware of how magical and enticing this music really is.”

Antoniuk combines his knowledge of West African music and acoustic jazz with rock and funk. On both of Jeff Antoniuk and The Jazz Update’s CD’s, “Brotherhood” and “Here Today,” he displays his remarkable mastery of the saxophone as well as his understanding for the subtle nuances of jazz itself.

“I am so attracted to jazz for the same reason I like stand-up comedy and freestyle rap,” he says. “They are all about being creative in the moment, but with a lot of preparation in the background that the audience isn't necessarily aware of.” But creating music isn’t quite enough for Antoniuk—he teaches too.

“I think jazz music is a vital part of our culture. People want to hear it and they want to play it,” he says. “It’s interesting that in these challenging financial times, our concerts and workshops are more popular than ever. I have people coming from hundreds of miles away to play and study jazz right here in Annapolis.”

Antoniuk offers a wide range of classes and workshops throughout Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. To find out more about them, as well as his upcoming performances, check out his website,