Rebekah Way mentors students on flute, clarinet and saxophone, and is working with students in four schools – Glacier and Pacific Middle Schools and Evergreen and Tyee High Schools.
Rebekah considers alto saxophone to be her primary instrument, but like many sax players started out on clarinet when she was 10 years old. Her start on clarinet was inspired by George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. “We listened to the composition in music class when we learned about the different instrument families, and that made me fall in love with the clarinet.”
A performance by her middle school’s jazz band inspired her to take up saxophone. “I remember the local middle school’s jazz band performing at my elementary school when I was in about sixth grade, and I was so amazed by it. I started taking saxophone lessons and later was able to join jazz band in middle school.” Her participation in jazz groups continued through high school and college, where she began playing flute to complete her ability to double on both clarinet and flute in the various ensembles she played in.
Rebekah’s music teachers played a key role in her pursuit of music over the years, with Mike Allen and Kevin Woods at Western Washington University having a major impact. “I had the opportunity to play second alto saxophone next to Mike Allen on lead in WWU’s big band and that had a big impact on my playing. I learned so much just through listening and blending with his playing. Kevin Woods helped me reach the goals I had to dive more into the music theory side of jazz, to improve my improvisation and to learn to compose and arrange music. He also trusted me with my first leadership roles in jazz groups, including lead alto in WWU’s jazz band and sometimes directing groups. Those opportunities pushed me to develop more of my individual style of playing.”
During her time at Western, she had the opportunity to perform alongside many noteworthy professional musicians, and saxophonist/composer Jessika Smith was one of her favorites. “As one of only a few women in the jazz department at Western, it was really meaningful for me to work with a professional saxophonist who was also a woman. I do think having role models can really inspire young students who may not feel like they’ll fit into a music program or the music world outside of school. I had seen very few female horn players performing professionally and hadn’t come across any female saxophone instructors (let alone composers) up to that point, so having that experience with Jessika really inspired me to continue pursuing music.”
Learning music is important to Rebekah because she believes it helps you to tune into yourself more as an individual and encourages growth. “You’ll run into a lot of challenges along the way, and I think it’s important to learn how to work through them rather than avoid them.”
“Playing music has always helped me feel grounded. My practice sessions typically start with long tones, and I take that time to think about and connect with my lungs and my air. Whenever I go through it, any stressors of the day immediately melt away and it’s just the saxophone.” Music also allows Rebekah to connect with a great community of like-minded people – “My community is constantly inspiring me to continue pursuing my goals.”
Like most music teachers, one of Rebekah’s primary objectives is to instill a lifelong passion for music in her students. “Even if they don’t continue playing music throughout life, which I hope that they do, I hope they will go on to appreciate and support the arts.”
You can learn more about Rebekah and her music at https://rebekahwmusic.com/.