The Murphys Recital: Saxophone, Piano, and Humility


On Thursday, Oct. 19, in the recital hall of Eastern Michigan University’s Alexander Music Building, something special took place. Dr. Otis Murphy of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music on the saxophone and his wife Haruko Murphy on the piano, played a number of movements to an audience of what was only 20 or so but seemed like thousands. 

With humility and grace the two played back and forth, with songs of gentleness as well as speed and ferocity. Throughout the performance, Dr. Murphy would kindly thank the audience and give a bit of antidote or insight for songs, like before “La Bee,” when he said “I like to think of our concert hall as our own bee hive, and we are the bees,” or before another complicated piece where he told himself after seeing it live that he’d never learn to play it. He then explained, however, that over the summer following this live performance, Dr. Murphy learned of the passing of the wife of a dear friend and collaborator, David Maslanka. In honor of him and his wife, Dr. Murphy learned the piece soon and played it at an upcoming recital. 

In this way, the audience was able to connect to the music and the musicians.The Murphys played together in complete harmony, glancing at each other throughout to maintain the connection. Not a note was missed and each song fulfilled its purpose.

Before the final song, Dr. Murphy thanked Woodrow Chenoweth, a professor of music at EMU who was in attendance, as well as the rest of the audience, noting his many years of knowing Chenoweth since he was a student, and acknowledging him directly, “So much has changed… it’s absolutely awesome to see you my man, and I wish you the best in your career and in your life.” He addressed the audience in saying “Your time is valuable. And it means a lot that you took time out of your lives to stand with us this evening.” Dr. Murphy finished with the most sincere thanks to his wife. “She is far more talented than I am, genuinely. She uses her time in such amazing ways… and this, our life, this tour, it’s not easy - 6 children to be gone for a week… she’s been a great partner.” His consistency and final dialogue showed how thoughtful and genuine Murphy is, in both performing and connecting. A few-minute long standing ovation followed the last piece, exemplifying the talent and moving nature of the night. 

I was able to speak to Dr. Murphy after the recital as well. He found the recital hall “lovely,” noting its “excellence acoustics” and “woodwork.” This was evident in the full sounds of the night. As for the process of actually deciding the program’s music, he says he “tries to think of the audience,” EMU’s show specifically taking into account “saxophone students and the Ypsilanti community,” with the inclusion of “folk music and normal saxophone repertoire.” Murphy is this detailed and delicate for he spends his life connecting to students through the education of music. Having played the saxophone since he was 12 in a small town in Georgia, his music has allowed him to travel to over 20 countries, for the sake of learning and spreading of this knowledge. 

Thanks to the Murphys, The recital brought together lovers and players of saxophone alike, resulting in a night of humility, warmth, and compelling music. The Murphys continue to tour, spreading the power of harmony. More information can be found here.

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