This interview was originally published on Ludwig Van.
Steven Banks has a goal: to bring the saxophone into the world of classical music—not just on the periphery, but as an integral part of orchestral music. He’ll be making his case in Toronto from January 17 to 21.
His performance represents the Canadian première of John Adams Concerto for Saxophone, along with Banks’ own debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Steven Banks, Saxophone
Steven Banks is the recipient of the 2022 Avery Fischer Career Grant, and was one of the first (and still few) saxophonists to be awarded First Prize at the Young Concert Artists Susan Wadsworth International Auditions.
His warm tone has been acclaimed by critics as a revelatory addition to the many orchestras he’s performed with, including The Cleveland Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Utah Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and Aspen Festival Orchestra, among others.
Steven first became enthralled with the saxophone and its possibilities after a visiting teacher performed with his high school jazz band during his freshman year.
“It was my first time hearing the saxophone played at that level,” he recalls. He was thrilled, and immediately wanted to know more. The same instructor was teaching at the North Carolina School for the Arts, and a plan was formed.
“I ended up going there after getting off the wait list,” he says. “It was such an intoxicating environment. That’s where I fell in love with classical music.” Despite a background in gospel and soul, he felt classical music’s appeal. “Classical music has always just felt like me.”