Local legend dedicates life to inspiring music students

Skilled jazz player uses experience to help mentor young music students

Gary+Hammon+has+been+playing+music+for+many+years%2C+he+attended+the+New+England+Conservatory+and+has+preformed+in+jazz+clubs+across+Seattle%2C+as+well+as+alongside+some+famous+musicians.+Though+he+specializes+in+jazz+and+saxophone%2C+he+works+with+students+on+multiple+different+instruments+and+in+several+different+genres.
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Local legend dedicates life to inspiring music students

Gary Hammon has been playing music for many years, he attended the New England Conservatory and has preformed in jazz clubs across Seattle, as well as alongside some famous musicians. Though he specializes in jazz and saxophone, he works with students on multiple different instruments and in several different genres.

Gary Hammon has been playing music for many years, he attended the New England Conservatory and has preformed in jazz clubs across Seattle, as well as alongside some famous musicians. Though he specializes in jazz and saxophone, he works with students on multiple different instruments and in several different genres.

Julian Whitworth

Gary Hammon has been playing music for many years, he attended the New England Conservatory and has preformed in jazz clubs across Seattle, as well as alongside some famous musicians. Though he specializes in jazz and saxophone, he works with students on multiple different instruments and in several different genres.

Julian Whitworth

Julian Whitworth

Gary Hammon has been playing music for many years, he attended the New England Conservatory and has preformed in jazz clubs across Seattle, as well as alongside some famous musicians. Though he specializes in jazz and saxophone, he works with students on multiple different instruments and in several different genres.

Ellie Rice, Staff Reporter

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Gary Hammon can normally be found on any given weekday in a practice room with his saxophone. A Seattle native, Hammon has dedicated his life to music. Now, he is a mentor and coach for music students students at school.

Hammon grew up in the Central District of Seattle and attended Garfield High School. He taught himself saxophone and frequently played prominent clubs in the local music scene.

“I was self taught, didn’t have the same experiences as other people, but I could play,” Hammon said, “[Seattle] was a music town,”

He went on to study music at The New England Conservatory as one of the first students in the jazz program. Initially, the classical musicians at the school resented the new jazz students.

“Their reputation back then wasn’t something that people who studied traditionally would give up. They took jazz as not being serious,” Hammon said. “I could play before I got in, [my teacher told me] ‘They cannot teach you to play jazz, you can already do that…what you want to do is learn classical.’”

At The New England Conservatory, he studied under musicians such as Mary Lou Williams, Kenny Dorham, and Carmen McRae. Hammon soon discovered that in order to be successful, he had to play every genre, including classical.

“I was playing clubs in Seattle, I started here, that’s where I got my apprenticeship and I learned to play…you did a little of everything,” Hammon said.

Now back in Seattle, he mentors young musicians and performs around the area. A Renaissance man, Hammon teaches students who play all types of instruments, and even vocalists.

Sophomore Suchit Shrestha, who plays the flute, experiences first hand the effect Hammon has on his students.

“He’s really inspiring… Playing an instrument can get so technical and stressful, but he really helps remind you why music is so cool,” Shrestha said.

His goal is not make all of his students professional musicians, but to instill gratitude of good music.

“I don’t know how much longer I will play flute,” Shrestha said. “But every time I see him in the band room it’s just a happy face and that’s really nice to see.”

After his time in college, Hammon transitioned from being a student to being a professional full time musician in Boston then New York. He began working clubs alongside great artists like Stevie Wonder, Wilson Pickett, and Ray Charles.

“The people I would run into, the great musicians I would meet. I was always in a situation with great musicians,” Hammon said.

Hammon is very aware that the culture around music is very different now than it was when he was young. He was able to play in many of the thriving jazz clubs, but now, most of them are gone. He also acknowledges the fact that the way people enjoy and practice music is completely different.

“There shouldn’t be any division anymore, we’re talking about art. We speak the same language,” Hammon said. “I think things have gotten so competitive, we’ve gotten away from the spiritual part of who we are…I just wanna enjoy everybody for what they do,”

Even though his surroundings have changed, Hammon still performs in clubs and records with other musicians around Seattle. A true Seattle legend, Hammon dedicates himself to inspiring the next generation of musicians.

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