Ashu has established an extraordinary ability to communicate with audiences through his charismatic and emotive performance style, and is one of today’s most engaging and pioneering musicians. He has developed a trailblazing career as the first and only full-time concert saxophone soloist. While his virtuosity continues to thrill listeners, his artistry reaches far beyond this demonstrating a unique personality and musical voice. He has repeatedly defied conventions by winning major international awards traditionally won by pianists and violinists. Critics have described him as “just as much fun to watch as to listen to” (Chicago Tribune) and “ready to cultivate the masses” (Washington Post).
Ashu was born and raised in California and began playing the saxophone at age 10. After just a few years, he began entering competitions and found himself receiving a wide range of opportunities, including his very first recital, which took place at Carnegie Hall. Since then, solo performances have taken him throughout the world.
“Ready to cultivate the masses…”
– Washington Post
Ashu is internationally regarded for his recent concerto and recital performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Festival, Zurich’s Tonhalle, NY Central Park, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Cape Town City Hall, St. Petersburg’s Hermitage, Kravis Center, Strathmore, and more. Regularly touring as soloist with orchestras around the world, he has recently been invited to perform concertos with major orchestras in Vienna, New York City, Chicago, St. Petersburg, Lisbon, Montreal, Bremen, Edmonton, Cape Town, Prague, and more. Over the past two seasons, Ashu’s concerto appearances included major halls throughout Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, France, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Poland, Austria, Portugal, Norway, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Canada, and the USA.
Recently, Ashu was selected as the winner of the prestigious “Audience Award” at the renowned International Musical Olympus Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, competing against the First Prize winners of the world’s foremost string, piano and voice competitions. The festival’s honorary committee included Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev, Yo-Yo Ma, Yuri Temirkanov, and Mariss Jansons. As a result, Ashu has been invited to perform concertos and recitals next year in a number of the most revered concerts halls worldwide.
“Just as much fun to watch as to listen to”
– Chicago Tribune
While most people have never heard the saxophone in concert music, Ashu has begun to change this. He says, “It’s really an incredible instrument. It can be played with such emotional intensity and sing like a voice. It’s capable of tremendous beauty.” With the unique ability to captivate general as well as classical audiences, Ashu has shown that the concert saxophone can reach beyond stylistic categorization and to a large diversity of people. He has also shown it can attract younger and new listeners into the concert hall being a relatively fresh instrument to classical audiences.
Ashu’s recent recital engagements in the USA include such prestigious series as the Ravinia Festival, Strathmore, Kravis Center, La Jolla Music Society, Detroit Symphony Center, Dumbarton Oaks, NY Rockefeller Series, Green Music Center, Performance Santa Fe, and more.
Ashu has also won First Prizes at renowned competitions including the International Heida Hermanns Competition, International Salon De Virtuosi Career Grant, International Houston Symphony, International Kingsville Wind Instrumentalist, American Opera Society, National Alliance for Excellence, National Lennox/RSO, National George S. Howard, National MOSC, National Federation of Music Clubs, National Houston Symphony Flores-Smith, and many more.
With a warm and engaging personality and a unique story, Ashu has been featured on NBC, CBS, NPR, CBC and numerous other live TV and radio broadcasts worldwide. He also regularly performs his own arrangements in his concerts.
Ashu received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Northwestern University under the guidance of renowned saxophone teacher Frederick Hemke, and he is currently based in the Chicago area.
How It Began
It all began at age 10 when Ashu one day was walking down the street in San Francisco and he heard this sound coming from a dark alley. He walked over and saw this man all alone playing this golden curved instrument. “It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my life. It completely blew me away. I was so captivated that it was all I could think about for weeks,” he said.
He begged his parents for a saxophone and soon after joined the school band. “From the moment I first took it out of the case, I loved everything about it – from the look and feel of it to the utter joy of getting to play it. It was the most glorious thing in the world.” Growing up without a music player or any albums, or the opportunity to attend a concert, everything became clear for Ashu at age 13 upon coming across his first CD: a recording of Luciano Pavarotti. In that moment, Ashu suddenly knew without any doubt that he wanted to become a classical soloist.
Ashu began seeking out recordings of all the great soloists, from Heifetz and Horowitz to Fischer-Dieskau, as he became enamored by the possibilities of a soloist. He was repeatedly told that it wasn’t possible on the saxophone and that he would have to either change styles or give it up. “I think sometimes you just have to follow your heart and ignore the naysayers,” Ashu said. Ashu simply saw no reason the beauty of the saxophone couldn’t be combined with this fantastic world of classical music. “To me the saxophone has such a human, organic, and vocal quality that is perfect for it.”
Two years later, Ashu came across an international competition open to any instrument with the Grand Prize of a recital at Carnegie Hall in New York. Having never yet performed in public, he decided to enter and, to the surprise of skeptics everywhere, won the entire competition. He soon after gave his first public performance at the world-renowned hall, which was met with an instant standing ovation and unanimous praise. With this first taste of performing, Ashu was hooked. He continued entering every competition he could find, winning each one he entered.
Ashu has since embarked on a trailblazing career as the first and only full-time concert saxophone soloist, bringing the instrument to new and broader audiences worldwide and changing the way people see this beautiful instrument. The Chicago Tribune declared him as “destined for the masses” and an “artist to watch for.”
Critics and musicians worldwide have continually raved about his natural ability to communicate with audiences both through his playing and speaking, writing that he is “just as much fun to watch as to listen to” (Chicago Tribune) and “has an ability to keep an audience totally enthralled (NY Times).” Whether performing as concerto soloist for an audience of 10,000 at NY Central Park or an intimate evening of chamber music with piano, audiences always leave transformed.
This past year was a breathtaking whirlwind on the concert stage for Ashu. His solo performances took him to major concert halls throughout Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, France, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, Poland, Austria, Portugal, Norway, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Canada, and the USA. For Ashu the journey is just beginning and he can’t imagine a better one.