Hard work pays off for Connor Slape, jazz musician at RCC

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By Zane Mudron

Through adversity, people learn more about themselves and what they are capable of. Nobody would know that better than Connor Slape.

Slape is a third year saxophone player in the Riverside City College wind ensemble, who plans to transfer to Cal State Long Beach next year. He is a role model to many and a dedicated musician.

“I started saxophone at the age of 10, clarinet at 13, bassoon at 14, flute at 16 and I’ve had to go and start learning piano,” he said.

Slape attributes his interest in saxophone and many other instruments to his supportive parents while growing up.

“When I was 12, I started taking private lessons in Long Beach with a guy named Rusty Higgins,” Slape said.

“For a good five to six years I went down and saw him every single week, nonstop … and they supported me through all of it.”

Slape goes on to list his biggest influences in jazz, names like Dexter Gordon, Phil Woods and Cannonball Adderley are mentioned.

“I guess the best thing to do is just try to sound like you. Play the way that makes you feel good, and just stick to that,” Slape said.

“Somebody always has something to say in life, if you want to be heard, then you just have to go and play it,” he said.

“People will listen, people will want to know what you have to say.”

Slape plans to transfer not only to further his musical career and open doors for himself at the university level, but to also get closer to his old teacher.

“I kind of got bored because I had this private teacher that I had been going to since junior high and his mentoring and teaching had made me a really great player,” he said.

Slape had the option to go to Cal State Long Beach when he graduated high school, but he decided to go to RCC for a couple years because of what the music program offers.

“I remember the week before I started school here, I went through a time where I had no idea what I wanted to do because the future after college was filled with doubt and uncertainty,” he said.

Like many college students, Slape was unsure if a job was guaranteed and was faced with a lot of questions about whether his long, hard hours would pay off.

“It’s not like I’d ever give it up,” Slape said.

He had a chance to influence many people in a positive way within his ensemble and the music program as a whole.

Fellow saxophonist Chris Abelgas is a third year RCC student who plays with Slape and the two are close friends.

“Since the first time I’ve seen him he is just like a completely different person and player, and definitely matured in both aspects,” Abelgas said.

“He’s a really nice person to be with and hang out with. He definitely is a straight forward person … never a boring moment with Connor for sure.”

Kevin Mayse, director of the RCC wind ensemble, views Slape as an example that others should follow.

“He leads by example, he is prepared, he doesn’t miss rehearsals,” Mayse said.

“He had originally been accepted to California State University Long Beach and decided to come here instead, which was really great for us.

“He plays first chair clarinet in my ensemble, but he also plays first chair saxophone in the jazz ensemble. To play at that level is pretty unique.”

Slape’s formidable work ethic, undeniable passion and ability to touch others in a positive way can only bring him success. He agrees that the future is uncertain, but many more would agree that the future is bright for this young musician.

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