Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Warm Winds over Woodbridge--Saxophonist Tony Craddock, Jr.
Watching the 24-hour cable weather news network as a child prompted the Woodbridge, Virginia native to major in atmospheric science at Cornell University.
But The Weather Channel also sparked an interest with a less obvious connection to temperatures, precipitation and cold fronts.
As a child, Craddock’s ears perked up whenever he heard the smooth jazz songs played on “Local on the 8s,” The Weather Channel’s segment depicting local weather conditions.
He enjoyed the music so much that at about age 12 he picked up an alto saxophone and learned how to play. While growing up, he played at church and other venues and at Cornell formed a student organization of musicians dedicated to smooth jazz and rhythm and blues.
Two months ago, the now 23-year-old Craddock reached a plateau with the release of “Christmas in the Air,” a collection of Christmas-related music that marks his maiden voyage as a recording artist.
Ironically, The Weather Channel has added two songs from the album, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “The First Noel,” to the rotation of songs that accompany its programming. Pandora Radio has also picked up songs from the CD.
It’s also drawn some attention from the smooth jazz community.
“The depth of his perception and innovative nature can be clearly found in this recording of many of our beloved Christmas tunes, which he recreates in many ways to place a very impressive signature on them,” wrote Ron Jackson of The Smooth Jazz Ride, an online publication.
“….It is always refreshing to listen to music that is well-conceived, even if it consists of covers (which can be the most difficult to reproduce in a stand-out way without an abundance of creativity and imagination). Craddock puts such a nice touch of each of these and really makes you feel as though this is a production of all-original material.”
Craddock’s strides in his music career come as he continues to pursue his interest in science. He is now at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia studying for his master’s in public health—training he hopes to combine with his undergraduate work in meteorology.
Still—never mind the implications of his decision to name his production company “Cold Front Music, LLC—“ he says he is sure that music is his first career choice.
“In the meantime I’m taking care of the academic portion of the equation and making sure that I have my education to fall back on,” he said. “But ideally my goal is to do music full-time and I’m trying to work towards that.”
We had a chance to talk to this possibly conflicted, definitely talented young man about his life, his music and the new album. We are presenting the interview in two parts. We will post the second part tomorrow:
BBP: My understanding is—just from what I read about you—that you actually got started in music watching The Weather Channel?
Craddock: That’s correct.
BBP: How’d that happen? Tell me the story.
Craddock: Well, around the age of eight, I realized I had a fascination with the weather, and the media source I ran to to fulfill that passion was The Weather Channel. And through watching The Weather Channel, I fell in love with “Local on the 8s,” which is the local segment of the show. And The Weather Channel was renowned for playing smooth jazz in the background, and I actually fell in love with that music. And I think that was actually the impetus for me wanting to begin the saxophone. The saxophone was an instrument that I kind of anchored to the most from the music they played on The Weather Channel. So when middle school rolled around, around the age of 12, when it came time for me to pick an instrument, the saxophone was the first one I ran to, just because of the positive experiences and influences I had from The Weather Channel.
BBP: So were you like part of a school band or something?
Craddock: You know I did the middle school band thing, then moved up to some band in high school, but the majority of my playing experience actually came from church.
BBP: Where did you get a saxophone? Did your parents buy you one?
Craddock: My parents invested in one.
BBP: Okay. And did you take lessons?
Craddock: I took lessons sparingly from about eighth to the tenth grade. I also studied briefly under—one of my musical mentors and still one of my musical mentors to this day—his name is Rob Maletick. I’m still in contact with him and he’s been a great mentor to me. After about the tenth grade, I really didn’t take any formal instruction.
BBP: And it seems like at the same time that your interest in music was born, your interest in science was born as well. I mean you developed that watching The Weather Channel too, right?
Craddock: Correct. Correct.
BBP: And did you actually develop an interest in meteorology at that point?
Craddock: I did. I think my interest in meteorology came first. And then I think, through the “Local on the 8s,” I became interested in weather. So the two fields, even though they seem pretty different, I think they actually have a weird connection, or odd connection in my case, just because I link the music with the weather.
BBP: Okay. So in other words meteorology and the weather are two different things.
Craddock: They are. But for me they’re sort of one in the same. Just because of the way I experienced them growing up.
BBP: And when you say meteorology, that’s actually the study of weather…
Craddock: The study of weather, correct….
BBP: …And when you say weather, you mean, discussing it on the media? The action of giving forecasts on the media and that sort of thing?
BBP: Tell me a little bit about where you took your music career after high school. Were you part of a band at Cornell?
Craddock: I never became part of a formal jazz band just because my rigorous curriculum. But I did on the side play along with the gospel choir my freshman and sophomore years. Come junior year, I started a jazz ensemble called “After Six” with a couple of my friends. I leaned more towards the smooth jazz R&B side, so we wanted to develop an ensemble that catered to that music. We did some standard jazz covers, but mostly smooth jazz, R&B, neo-soul type of music. And I led that ensemble for two years—my junior and senior years—and also led the movement for it to become a registered student organization on campus, because I wanted to make sure that after I left Cornell, the group would still be sustainable.
BBP: And is it? Is it still going on?
Craddock: It’s still alive and well.
BBP: And are you in touch with the people who are members now?
Craddock: I am.
BBP: And are you advising them on different things? How to play, or how to run this organization, or whatever?
Craddock: I guess you could call my role more of a graduate or alumni consultant. You know we have a list-serve and we still communicate back and forth all of the time….
BBP: Okay. Tell me what you’re doing now academically. You’re now at George Mason?
Craddock: Correct. I’m at George Mason working on my Master’s in public health with a concentration in epidemiology, which is more or less the study of disease.
BPP: Okay. And what do you intend to do with this?
Craddock: My goal ideally is to combine the MPH with my undergraduate degree in meteorology and do some sort of environmental health consulting. Bridge the two fields to find ways to inform people about how everyday weather impacts their lives.
BBP: But at the same time you’re pursuing musical ventures as well. Do you think you have time for both?
Craddock: Well at this point I sort of have no choice but to make time for both. But my goal is to do music full-time. In the meantime I’m taking care of the academic portion of the equation and making sure that I have my education to fall back on. But ideally my goal is to do music full-time and I’m trying to work towards that.
BBP: Okay. So if you had your choice between pursuing what you’re studying in school and doing the musical career, you would do the musical career?
Craddock: No doubt. I’d definitely go for music.
Don't forget to catch Part II tomorrow.