Blowin' with the orchestra

The Sunday Times (South Africa)

When Ashu was 10, he heard someone playing a saxophone on the radio and fell in love with the sound.

VISIONARY: Ashu first heard his chosen instrument on the car radio, and fell in love.  He begged his parents to buy him one of the instruments. They gave in and now the America -born saxophonist is a force to be reckoned with, playing concerts around the world.

n Thursday, he will play with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra for the Youth Day concert in the Durban City Hall .  Ashu - stage name - was born and raised in California . He first heard the saxophone while driving with his parents. 

"It completely blew me away. I had never heard anything like it before. There was something about the sound of the saxophone that was so human and organic; it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. I begged my parents for a saxophone and the next year I was old enough to join the school band.

"I really loved everything about it, from practising to the look and feel of it. I knew within a year that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."

A first-generation Indian American, Ashu attended Northwestern University near Chicago , where he majored in music. He still lives in the city.  

With a love of the classics, he began listening to musicians like Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and violinist Jascha Heifetz when he was 15.

"It was then that I knew I wanted to find a way to follow a solo career as a saxophonist. Of course, people will always try to dissuade you and say 'oh,you can't do that, it's not possible'. However, I think sometimes if you know what you want to do, you just have to ignore what people say, believe in yourself, and go for it," he said.

But he has proved the naysayers wrong and has been performing in concerts around the world for the past six years.

"I realise how lucky I am to get to do what I love - and for a living - and I just try not to ever take it for granted. Each and every concert and chance to perform for an audience is a thrilling and humbling opportunity."

Ashu will be playing the alto and soprano saxophones during his performance in South Africa . He has performed in Russia , the UK , New Zealand and Canada . His recital debut was at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2000.

Last year, he played with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, which was one of his "most memorable" experiences. 

"I've always been fascinated by the history, culture and beauty of South Africa . However, visiting it far surpassed anything I could have imagined. It's unquestionably one of the most beautiful and incredible places I've ever been," he said.

Ashu said he had heard great things about the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra during his last visit and contacted them to propose performing together.

He will join the orchestra to play music adapted from the 2002 Steven Spielberg film Catch Me If You Can.

He will also perform two of his own arrangements.

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