November 18th: The Force

18 Nov

Portland State Music: 30 for the 30th

Name: Mary Sue Tobin

Instrument: saxophones, clarinet, flute

Student of Charley Gray, Darrell Grant, Doug Schneider, Scott Hall, Rob Scheps

B.M.2004  M.M.2006  Portland State University

Putting Music Forward

Sometimes it seems like Mary Sue Tobin is everywhere. On any given night one might find MST, as she is known, freelancing in a pit orchestra, playing in a big band, leading a jazz group or performing in a classical saxophone quartet.  She curates concert series, teaches University and private students, and supplies the energy, initiative and creativity that fuels a large swath of Portland’s music culture.

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Putting Skills to Work

Mary-Sue received a Masters of Music in Saxophone Performance and a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Portland State University.  A short list of ensembles she performs with includes the Paxselin Quartet, Portland Jazz Orchestra, Soul Vaccination, Art Abrams Swing Machine, Andrew Oliver Sextet, Lily Wilde Orchestra, Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble, Quadraphonnes, PDX Saxophone Quartet, Chamber of Commerce and Sound for the Organization of Society.

In addition to leading her own groups. MST is active as a curator of creative music in Portland.  In 2010 she began hosting the Sunday night Ninkasi Beer Jazz series at Portland jazz venue The Blue Monk, one of the cities longest running regular jazz series. Also in 2010 she received a Regional Arts and Cultural Council (RACC) grant to present “Tone-Color Melody,” a multi-media extravaganza that featured music, film, dance and visual arts.

MST performs regularly with The Oregon Symphony Pops, appears at classical concerts with her saxophone quartets and performs with the Portland Center Stage Orchestra in PCS musical productions.  She has toured internationally with the groups Flatland and Dub Squad, and shared the stage with international jazz and R&B stars such as Dave Douglas, The Temptations, James Moody and Esperanza Spalding.

MST maintains a full studio of students through Beacock’s Music Education Center where she also directs band and teaches jazz improvisation seminars. She has been adjunct saxophone instructor at George Fox College and  frequently  serves as an adjudicator for northwest solo & ensemble festivals, and as a clinician for school workshops.

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Adding Something Unique

Most recently, MST was one of guiding forces behind the rebirth of the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival as Programming Co-Chair and Vice President of the non-profit InterArts. After nearly being shut down by order of the state Department of Justice, this year’s festival expanded its scope and reached out to Portland’s vast pool of talented young musicians for new vibrancy and ideas.

As the Oregon Music News stated  “The Cathedral Park Jazz Festival was a goner, and everyone knew it, but there were a determined bunch who didn’t believe it and made this thing happen. The folks at InterArts and the musicians who curated the festival deserve a big round of cheers for making this festival happen in two months.”
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What Did PSU Music Mean to You?

“PSU taught me that I could be the person and musician I wanted to be. The education, resources and support I received there gave me the foundation to build a career and provided me with a lasting community. It changed my life in a profound and invaluable way and I couldn’t be more grateful.”


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