By Jaymie Baxley
Jazz artist Michael Wallace has dedicated the majority of his 53 years to mastering woodwind instruments. He's a former first sergeant of the 82nd Airborne Division Band, and despite his extensive background in music, Wallace believes there is still plenty left to learn.
"I'm most concerned with becoming a more knowledgable and capable musician. That never ends. The discoveries never end."
Wallace started out with the alto saxophone in junior high school. From there, he grew proficient with other woodwind instruments, including the clarinet, flute and oboe.
"I think that people who play this type of music don't choose to do it - they're chosen to do it. They catch the bug and can't help it."
Wallace spent eight years in the infantry before joining the 82nd band. "The military taught me that it takes discipline to play music. You need people who have discipline and are willing to play together on the outside, too," he said.
After he retired, Wallace formed a jazz ensemble called The Michael Wallace Quintet. He also teaches band students at Douglas Byrd High School and gives private lessons at the Blue Violin in downtown Fayetteville. The quintet usually performs every other Friday night at Cypress Bend Vineyards in Wagram.
Tina Smith manages Cypress Bend with her husband, Dan. "Audiences are drawn to the music and the personalities," she said, "the personality of Wallace, especially. He's a great saxophonist and a real entertainer."
While the group's style is somewhat improvisational, Wallace clarifies that it's not entirely off the cuff.
"You have to know how harmony is structured and how it moves, and you have to think about what you're doing. Playing this type of music, it's almost like building a house. You have a blueprint and you construct from there."
Getting a hold of the quintet's music can prove tricky; the group doesn't have a dedicated website or internet profile (though one is apparently forthcoming). Wallace, however, says he's not really in a hurry to promote his music. He doesn't expect, or necessarily want, to get rich and famous from it.
"The main objective is just to play and to get better at what I do. Everything else is secondary."
Hear samples of Wallace's music