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Daniel T. Peterson: Aspiring and Inspiring

Dan Peterson, jazz saxophonist, clarinetist and music professor, hosts Philadelphia Music Makers on WRTI, November 2, 6 PM

Daniel T. Peterson’s passion for music began early, but it took a long and winding path before it manifested as his career.

As a young child, Peterson exhibited some talent - singing shyly from the backseat of the car, but mostly engaged with music as a fan. His father’s extensive record collection captivated him, and Peterson spent much of his young life digging through a veritable treasure trove of albums where he was exposed to everything from Miles Davis to Jimi Hendrix.

This penchant for dabbling continued as he entered high school, where he learned to play the guitar with friends, casually jamming to imitate their favorite rock stars. Yet rock 'n' roll didn’t quite hold the same fascination for him as jazz. And by the end of high school his interests had narrowed around the genre. Peterson traded a handful of lizards (literally) for his first saxophone, and began figuring out how to blow like Trane.

Though music wasn’t his major, an inspiring encounter in college with Bebop pioneer Max Roach, who Peterson would later perform with, kept him energized and active musically.

After the life of a weekend musician proved unfulfilling, though, he decided to get serious about adding craft to the soul and style of the music he had been nurturing. Peterson enrolled in the jazz studies program at Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance and began to drink in everything on offer.

With a solid foundation finally in place, he was able to move beyond imitating the sounds he loved as a child and begin composing his own works and finding his own sound.

Peterson shared one such piece in his Philadelphia Music Makers session, Tide Pools, a meditation on early experiences of being on a "historically trapped" island off the coast of Maine where he spent summers. Without running water or electricity, Peterson found himself reminded of time’s passage only by the ebb and flow of tidal pools.

It’s possible that this ability to be present in the moment is part of what has allowed Peterson’s career to flourish. These days, instead of listening to records made by the greats, Peterson has found himself sometimes playing alongside them.  And more than occasionally, being compared with them.  

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