Jazz musician Tanner Goulet had some interesting news to share — oh, not the fact that he’s related to the late Robert Goulet, or that Tanner actually looks like that suave Broadway baritone. He also revealed that he studied jazz improvisation this summer at the famed Interlochen Arts Camp in Northern Michigan, the nation’s first multidisciplinary summer arts program for budding artists in grades 3-12.
A graduate of Indian River Charter High School, Goulet began playing saxophone in the fourth grade and focused on jazz, his favorite genre, for about six years, competing in numerous competitions and band festivals, solos and sets.
Born in Columbia, SC, Goulet considers himself a Vero native, having moved here when he was 1 month old, and says he is very lucky to have his family to support him, noting, “My mom and dad are music lovers, the music is always around the house, except when we are doing our homework.
Goulet went to St. Anastasia Catholic School in Fort Pierce until eighth grade and his saxophone teacher, Al Shikaly, encouraged him to choose IRCHS, telling him that David Mundy, director of jazz studies of the school, “is fantastic”.
“I had the great opportunity to play in the Jazz Ensemble my first year here, and this is now my fourth year in this band. It’s been a crazy, wild ride ever since; a really, really good time,” says Goulet. .
“The environment is so amazing, inspiring and enriching. All disciplines are so fantastic in their own way. In the jazz program, we all help lift each other up and encourage each other to practice and do our best. Very collaborative.
He plays venues and events around town as a four-year-old member and lead saxophonist of the Wolves Jazz Band, with his own jazz/funk band On the One (a reference to James Brown), and as six-year member of the 20th Street Jazz Band, a local group of professional and amateur musicians who perform at the Irish American Club.
He is also an active member of the Florida Symphonic Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble in Orlando and has performed with many other Treasure Coast musicians. He even had the rare honor of playing with the famous Birdland Jazz Club in New York, which has hosted jazz legends since 1949.
“I also like to go to Fort Pierce and play their Jazz and Blues Society every other week.
These guys are all fantastic. I’ve been playing with them since I was 12,” says Goulet.
Locally, he also played Blues Jam at Catelli Cigar Bar, adding, “It’s great fun if you like ‘Dad rock’.”
Goulet is easy to spot in any band because rather than the traditional shiny brass or silver, his saxophone is black.
“It’s built in Vietnam, then it comes back to the States to be acoustically installed in Salt Lake City, Utah,” says Goulet, adding that his equipment is kept up to date at Gary Underwood Music in Orlando.
Goulet believes that jazz is, in a sense, a team sport, with its real-time interactions.
“I love it so much. I look forward to my interaction with people every day, especially my classmates here, to interact with people through music. It’s the best way for me to to express, to be more connected to the audience and to other musicians on stage. To be open to the fact that you can create something absolutely beautiful. It’s indescribable to capture the true feeling of the moment,” he adds.
“The jazz era started a long time ago, with West African rhythms imported into this country, and gospel and blues are so steeped in it. No matter who spearheads the development of the genre, it retains always that, and that’s why I love him so much. It’s so many different things, but there’s always that common ground.
Goulet says he didn’t know what to expect at Interlochen, but soon realized what a special experience it was to be one of more than 50 participants in the jazz program.
“It’s jazz 24 hours a day for three weeks. It was absolutely fantastic. All the different approaches to the discipline have really broadened my knowledge of the craft,” says Goulet, adding that he “constantly tries to improve me as a musician, to improve me as a player”.
Art students from around the world attend the camp to develop their abilities in music, theater, dance, creative writing, visual arts and film through performances, presentations and readings. About 10% of the country’s professional orchestral musicians have roots in Interlochen, and its alumni have received nearly 100 Grammy Awards.
“So going to a place like Interlochen and having all these people with all these different ideas and all these different backgrounds, it was just amazing to be around that.”
Goulet says two of his Interlochen teachers, Stafford Hunter and Aiden Cafferty, “really cut it back to basics. They really simplified it. It made me step back and approach it from a different angle. It allowed me, gave me the environment, to do it.
Goulet says his dream is to be a professional jazz player, but he’s strong enough to know he needs to get a bachelor’s degree and then see where that takes him. He is an Eagle Scout, the current president of the National Honor Society in his school’s chapter, and he is very involved in his community.
Goulet realizes that it will take hard work, combined with a bit of luck, to reach the point where he can make money as a musician. However, he remembers the words of his saxophone teacher, who always played professionally, retired and is playing professionally again.
“My teacher told me it’s hard, but he’d rather get up every morning and do what he loves than have to work 9 to 5 and hate it. I’ve thought many times about what a possible Triple-Z plan might be if I ever get it right, but as of now I’m just going full throttle, working as hard as I can, meeting as many people as I can . I can play with as many people as possible.
In the meantime, Goulet says IRCHS provides him with the guidance he needs to find his way and be able to shape his career.
“IRCHS is truly a special place. Without this place, I don’t think I would have a career in music. I don’t think I would see the opportunity, the possibility of doing something that I love like this for the rest of my life,” says Goulet, who in addition to her degree will also be graduating with an AA degree in April from Indian River State College.
Goulet plans to apply to colleges in Florida and out of state, primarily on the East Coast. In music-based colleges, students must first be accepted by the college and then audition to be accepted into the music program.
“Where can I get the best education, where is there a great jazz scene in college town, where can I see myself working, possibly, while I’m in college, and what about the cost? Going into college and coming out with student debt is not something I want to do,” he says.
“I have big goals, and if things naturally look better at different times, I’ll improvise, adapt and overcome.”
Meanwhile, Goulet looks incredibly busy, but says, “he’s a good busy one.”
Pictures of Joshua Kodis