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'I feel this music:' UNC lecturer releases debut saxophone album

contrib-lifestyle-heidi-radtke-new-album
Photo Courtesy of Heidi Radtke.

When Heidi Radtke was just a toddler in Chicago's bustling Union Station, she became so transfixed on a saxophone player busking in the halls that her parents couldn’t pull her away.

As soon as she was old enough, she picked the instrument up and hasn't put it down since.

Now, Radtke is a professional saxophonist and lecturer in the Department of Music at UNC. On March 1, Radtke released her debut album, "Convergence," where she collaborated with eight composers to create songs that blend the saxophone and fixed media — or audio that has been pre-recorded.  

Radtke received a grant through the Department of Music and recorded all of the songs in Moeser Auditorium on campus in just three days in the summer of 2023. Her initial recordings were solo saxophone pieces that were later mixed with musical and fixed media accompaniments.

“I think this way we actually got to create on the album the balance between the electronic accompaniment and my performance that really presented everything the way I imagined it,” Radtke said.

Frank Felice, an associate professor of music at Butler University and the composer on "Convergence", wrote and collaborated with Radtke to produce "Ten Sacks O’ Sneaks and Snacks."

Felice wrote the piece with a cymbal pattern that resembles hip-hop beats, as well as contrasting saxophone techniques to create a conversation between the two.

“I hope they find it to be a kind of dance of a pair of people who are both witty, funny, intelligent and they're slightly flirting with each other, but they're not being terribly overt about it,” Felice said. "It's subtle, but there is a kind of expectation that somebody holds out and it's not quite met, but then maybe it's met sideways or backwards.”

Radtke’s utmost goal for the album is to provide listeners with music that they can connect with, she said. Her two favorite songs on the album are "Wind Telephone," featuring Ruby Fulton, and "Breonna Taylor (How Many More?)" 

She said that both pieces provide musical catharsis and process loss in different ways.

UNC assistant music professor Rahsaan Barber wrote the song, "Breonna Taylor (How Many More?)" He said Radtke wanted to perform the song in a new way after hearing a recording of him performing the song with his own jazz group.

The song, which normally requires other musicians to perform, was prepared and added to Radtke’s solo recording, along with piano played by Barber and audio from Taylor’s neighborhood.

Barber said that, compared to many other instruments, the saxophone is relatively young, leaving fertile ground for musicians to explore. Radtke expands listener's understanding of the saxophones' capabilities to express personality through music, he said.

If listeners invest themselves into music, he said, they can be swept up in the emotions and get inspired.

Barber values collaborators that are not only easy to work with but also are able to make their aspirations a reality, and when it comes to the saxophone, he said he has found that Radtke is able to do exactly that. She is open to exploring new forms of artistic expression, he said.

“Heidi is a musician who is of the highest caliber, and I'm very, very fortunate that I was able to collaborate with her and I would collaborate with her anytime, anyplace, anywhere,” Felice said. “Just set it up. I'm ready to go.”

After going through the process of creating her debut album, Radtke said she has a new understanding and appreciation for artists that produce music regularly — an undertaking that requires careful preparation, recording and editing tracks before they can be released to the world. She said that the development of "Convergence" would not have been possible without the patience and expertise of Jay Harper, a media technician at UNC.

Radtke said she has gained respect for the practice and takes pride in her creative endeavor. 

"I feel this music," she said. "It is something that I am having fun with, I'm grooving to on the stage, you'll see me moving with it. Or it's something that I'm feeling emotionally and trying to portray it that way."

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com

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