“I’m not very good with words,” Alex Dugdale, 26, of Seattle, said. “But when I play sax and dance, I am truly able to express myself in my first language: rhythm. It is how I pray. It is how I express every emotion, good or bad.”
Dugdale, Educator Track Coordinator for Jazz Port Townsend, is a tap dancer, saxophone player and grade-school music teacher at eight schools. This month, he is an Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award nominee in the category of Emerging Artist of the Year.
“It is a thrill and an honor to be nominated,” Dugdale said. “I love Seattle, the Pacific Northwest. The music scene here is so diverse and well supported.”
Earshot Jazz, a Seattle nonprofit whose mission is to ensure the legacy and progression of the art form, awards Golden Ear awards in eight categories every year. Anyone can nominate an artist and a popular vote determines the winners.
“Alex is one of the most positive, can-do people I’ve ever met,” Gregg Miller, Jazz Port Townsend Program Manager, said of Dugdale. “Not only does he say ‘yes’ to everything he possibly can, he works quickly, efficiently and independently. Combine that with a genuinely ebullient personality and that’s Alex.”
Rob Birman, Centrum Executive Director, agreed. “Alex is emblematic of the next generation of Centrum participants,” he said. “He’s young, dedicated, passionate and seeking to advance his career in jazz.”
Dugdale worked as a paid intern at Centrum for two weeks in 2015 and 2016. This July, he will return as a coordinator for the festival’s educator track to help other music instructors gain teaching skills.
“I love the growth of students and seeing how much they care about music and work hard to get better,” Dugdale said of his dedication to teaching.
Of his experience at Centrum he said, “Being around hard working, friendly, organized people was inspiring, as was working with all the jazz faculty.”
Dugdale has a Master’s Degree in arts and teaching from Seattle Pacific University and a Bachelor’s Degree in performance from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He works for Bishop Blanchet High School in the band department. For the department, he travels to surrounding schools and provides instruction to students in grades four through eight. Those schools include, Holy Rosary Edmonds, St. John, St. Luke, St. Madeleine Sophie, St. Mark, and Our Lady of the Lakes, Seattle. He also directs the Second Jazz Ensemble at Edmonds Woodway High School and teaches private lessons.
“He’s an outstanding musician and charismatic entertainer,” Jake Bergevin, Director of Bands and Department Chairperson Edmonds-Woodway High School, said.
Bergevin recommended Dugdale for his internship at Centrum.
“His facility on many different instruments makes him especially valuable when modeling authentic jazz stylization,” Bergevin continued. “I’m proud to have recommended him to the Centrum staff and glad he’s made himself a valuable asset to Jazz Port Townsend.”
Dugdale was born Colombia and emigrated to the U.S. as an infant to live with adoptive parents in Seattle. As a preschooler, he watched renowned tap dancer Savion Glover perform on Sesame Street and said “I want to do that.” A year later, he was. (Glover performed several acts on Sesame Street, one with legendary tap dancer Gregory Hines, with whom Dugdale shared a stage in 2002 during a PBS special). Then, at age 11, Dugdale jammed with a steel drum player in a New York City subway during a visit to perform in the NYC Tap Festival. The experience ignited a passion for instrumental jazz. Already a clarinet player, he picked up the saxophone and has been performing jazz ever since.
As for what lies ahead, Dugdale said “I do not see myself going completely performance or completely education. There will always be a balance of both in my life. To be lucky enough to continue to make a living doing what I love—and maybe get some due recognition at the right time—is all that I could ever hope for.”
To keep up with Alex Dugdale, follow his musical group FADE on Facebook. FADE is “Jazz/funk and overall soulful music that makes you want groove all day and night,” according to its Facebook page. It’s a “larger ensemble playing music from Dixieland to Herbie Hancock” and filled with “young men and women dedicated to playing great music.”
Its members are: Big Band: Taka Olds; Luke Woodle; Lise Ramaley; Peter Ramaley; Adrian Eldridge; Noah Halpern; Alex Dugdale. Quintet: Daniel Arthur; Cole Schuster; Greg Feingold; Max Holmberg; Alex Dugdale.