Updated: Apr 28
Every now and then, out of all the talent in the world, there will be someone whose light shines a little brighter than everyone else's. Sam Rucker was one such individual. His distinctive style of playing grabs your attention like a magnet. I was immediately struck by the smooth and silky quality of his music. As a result of hearing his music, I was curious to learn more about him and his musical journey. Here is what he had to say.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What's your story? What made you decide to pursue music? I started playing the sax in 6th grade band. I picked the sax because it made a sound when I blew on it and the trumpet did not. Our first test in band class was on “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I failed it miserably and was so angry and frustrated that I quit band class. I hated it. My father said that he had rented the horn on a one-year contract, and he did not want to waste his money. So, he made me take private lessons until the end of the contract year, since I had quit the band. My private lesson teacher was a no-nonsense, retired Master Chief named Nick Annase.
Mr. Annase changed the course of my life! He saw potential in me and would not accept anything less than my best effort. To me, at 12 years old, he seemed mean, and I often left lessons with my feelings hurt. But, by the end of that contract year I was hooked. When I joined band again in 8th grade, I was competing for first chair, and first chair in the district by 9th grade. I grew up in a musical household with both parents loving to listen to music. But Mr. Annase showed me that I could make music. The rest is history.
My first professional music experience came in rap, and I produced and performed with a gospel rapper named Israel the Warrior. We had good national success in the early 2000’s, especially on the east coast. I produced and wrote a lot of music for many unsigned artists in hip-hop, R&B, and Gospel. In 2008 I decided to get back to my first love, the sax. I started side-manning with a lot of local VA jazz groups and connected with Norman Connors in 2011. I toured with Norman for a while, and he coproduced a couple of songs on my “Tell You Something” album in 2014. Since then, I have been focusing on being a solo artist, band leader and worship leader in the church.
In your opinion, what is the most enjoyable aspect of being a saxophonist? Playing in worship. Hands down. There’s no feeling like playing under the anointing and connecting with God on a level deeper than you can express with words, through music.
As a musician, what are some of the challenges you face? For me, confidence. I never feel like I’m as good as I should be. But, I’m learning to appreciate the gift that God has given me and focus more on what He wants me to do with it; rather than am I good enough.
What are your favorite music genres? Jazz, Gospel, Neo-Soul, R&B, Hip-Hop.
How has your style been described by people who have heard your music? A blend of jazz, hip-hop and gospel. Music that inspires and just puts them in a good place. Often, people say they listen to me while they are working. I’m starting to claim that listening to my music improves your productivity. Lol.
Among all the saxophonists, who has most influenced you? Wow. Hard to narrow it down. If I just look at my musical formative years, I’d say Sonny Stitt, David Sanborn, and Grover Washington Jr.
Over the years, who have you worked with? Names that you might know include Euge Groove, Norman Connors, Peter White, Tom Browne, Jean Carne, Gerald Veasley, Phil Perry, Allison Williams, Helen Baylor, Ron Kenoly, Cindy Bradley.
When preparing for a show, how do you mentally prepare for public opinion (whether positive or negative)? It is important to me to make an impression and be worth the ticket. That drives me to practice and prepare. But my main concern is that the message gets across and that I am doing what God wants me to do. His opinion trumps all.
How would you advise new musicians entering this industry? Realize that your talent is not unique. No matter how good you are. God has given billions of people musical talent since the beginning of time. It is not special. What makes you unique is your assignment. There is something that only you can do with the gift that God has given you. That is what makes you unique. That’s what is special. Strive to understand your unique assignment and then just do you!
Other than the saxophone, what other instruments do you play? Keyboards, drums, and a tad bit of bass.
Do you currently have any singles or albums out? Would you mind telling me about your latest album/song and what inspired it? Is it already available and where can people purchase it? The first single off my fourth studio album releases on April 11th. The song is called “In Position”. The motivation behind “In Position” is to put your mind and heart in position to rise above the challenges of life, particularly in today’s world. For me, that is a position of belief, and trust in God.
Do you have any upcoming shows? I have a number of dates coming up in the second half of the year including a concert at the Wayne Theatre in Waynesboro, VA on May 20th. In addition, you can find me most Sundays playing at "Faith to Faith Abundant Life Ministries" in Williamsburg, VA where I am the minister of music.
Are there any tips you can give to aspiring musicians? Make the music you love.
What's the difference between Pepsi and Coca Cola? Don't they taste the same? I can’t help you. I don’t drink either. Perrier or S. Pellegrino is a better question for me. S. Pellegrino tastes better, more flavorful.
Record Label: Favor Productions
Official Website: www.SamRucker.com
All Photo Credits: Keith Fox Photography
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