Saxophonist and Clarinetist and arranger and composer Kirk Edwards has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in music. Kirk began his musical journey as an alto saxophonist while in the fourth grade at Millview Elementary School in Madera, CA. It was an auspicious start to the eventual musical career that he would later enjoy. Kirk earned a seat in the Madera County Honor Band in fifth grade and garnered a superior rating and a Command Performance with a saxophone trio while in the sixth grade. Mr. Edwards was fortunate to have tremendous support and encouragement from his music teachers during his formative years in Madera and Fresno, CA while attending Thomas Jefferson Junior High School, Madera High School, Fresno City College, and California State University at Fresno. Kirk owes a debt of gratitude to all those early music teachers; Mr. David Hobbs, Mr. Alan Harkins, Mr. Michael Henshall, Mr. Gilbert Rodriguez, Mr. Eiji Maruko, and Dr. W.V. Moats.
When Kirk reached college, he encountered a dilemma that he had not anticipated. He was informed that he would not be able to study saxophone as his major instrument because there are no saxophones in symphony orchestras. So, he began studying the clarinet for the first time in his life during his first year in college. This seemingly bad break eventually turned out to be a God send.
Kirk later transferred to California State University at Northridge (CSUN) in the Los Angeles, CA area in Fall 1977. During his time at Northridge he studied with Los Angeles Philharmonic Co-Principal Clarinetist Lorin Levee through their Minority Orchestra Training program as well as his studies with notable CSUN clarinet teacher Dr. Charles Bay. Kirk participated in the Clara Porter Hammet Clarinet Competition in the summer of 1979. He won the Los Angeles and the California rounds of the competition, before placing third in the National competition in St. Louis, MO. He was also chosen as the “Most Valuable Player” in their top wind ensemble and also received a scholarship.
After Kirk earned a position in the U.S. Coast Guard Band in 1981 he was able to take private lessons with the renowned clarinet pedagogue Leon Russianoff in 1988-89. During his formative years as a clarinetist there was an emphasis on studying the clarinet exclusively and strong advice to not play the saxophone. Kirk’s dream of being a jazz saxophonist was sidelined for many years. But his participation in the music program at the Madry Temple Church in New London, CT and the encouragement of their organist Jack Madry (presently the Madry Temple Church Pastor and keyboard player) provided Kirk an opportunity to maintain his performing on the saxophone.
Kirk attended the Jazz in July Workshop in Jazz Improvisation at the University of MA at Amherst for three summers, 1989, 1990, and 1992. Jazz in July was a nurturing and encouraging environment with a legendary faculty. Pianist Billy Taylor and Drummer Max Roach were on hand at the Jazz in July program, and Yusef Lateef was the presenter for the saxophone master classes. Kirk won the award for the “Most Improved Player” while attending the Jazz In July workshop in the 1989 session.
Kirk studied the clarinet privately with Hartford Symphony Orchestra principal clarinetist Kurt Blood while earning a master’s degree in music at the University of Connecticut from 1995-1999. Mr. Edwards did not have the opportunity to play the clarinet daily as he had when he was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Band, while Kirk served as the Director of Cadet Bands (January 2000-June 2011). So, he took private lessons from the retired principal clarinetist of the Coast Guard Band, Dan Lukens. Kirk’s association with Dan Lukens led to his 2007 At the Crossroads recital at Madry Temple Church that is now available as a live performance on CD. After retiring from the Coast Guard in 2011, Kirk attended the Connecticut Alternate Route to Certification program. He graduated in 2012 with a certification to teach Music, Pre K-12.
Edwards taught at the String Theory School of Music from 2012 though 2015. While associated with the music school Kirk served on the Board of Directors for the Mystic Blues Festival. After, leaving the music school Kirk decided to focus on studying jazz. He already had a tremendous outlet with the Coalition Jazz Band. The Coalition Jazz Band is a quartet of jazz musicians who loved the music so much that they were content to rehearse in Kirk’s basement for several years before they decided it was time to share the fruits of their labor with the public. Meanwhile, Kirk met Ron Carter’s Golden Stryker Trio pianist Donald Vega while he was performing at a local jazz club. Kirk was so impressed with Vega’s musicianship that he contacted him via the internet. Elated that Donald taught private lessons, Kirk started to travel to NYC for private lessons with Donald. Kirk has now studied with Donald Vega for eight years and has recorded two CDs with him. Mr. Edwards continues to be very active performing chamber music on saxophone and clarinet throughout Southeastern Connecticut. Kirk also is a clarinetist in the New London Community Orchestra where he is also a member of the orchestra’s board of directors.