Sam Bishoff – Saxophone Teacher

Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute
Bachelor’s in Jazz Performance, Temple University

Conservatorium van Amsterdam
Specializing in Jazz

saxophone teacher, flute, clarinet, jazz, Philadelphia, Philly music, FishtownAs a child, my parents exposed me to a variety of music and I soon became obsessed with B.B. King and the blues. I grew up in Seattle and the local blues radio station played jazz on the weekdays, so as I listened for my hero B.B. to come on the radio, I was accidentally introduced to jazz and I loved it! In grade school, I picked the saxophone as my band instrument, because I knew I could eventually play jazz on it. I continued to play through high school and eventually decided to attend Temple University where I recently completed a degree in Jazz Performance. I also spent a semester studying abroad at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.

In addition to saxophone, I play clarinet, flute, and some piano. I have played in venues such as Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Temple Performing Arts Center. I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with such musicians as Larry McKenna, Mike Crotty, Dan Monaghan and Greg Kettinger.

When it comes to teaching I like to strike a balance between building a solid base in rudiments, as well as pursuing the interests of the student. In my first lesson, I always like to spend a couple of minutes discussing with the student their goals and musical inspirations. Knowing this can help me to tailor the lessons to the student and apply basics like scales and etudes in ways that keep them interested. I am comfortable teaching a number of styles such as jazz, classical, and pop, as well as concepts like improvising, reading, theory, and composing. I also welcome students of all levels and ages. If you’re just starting we’ll work together to get a really good foundation going that will allow you to take your music in whatever direction you want. If you’ve already got a grasp on the instrument we can work together to polish those skills or introduce you to new concepts that you haven’t covered yet. Either way, I look forward to helping you be the best you can be musically.


When did you begin playing Saxophone, and why?
I had been interested in jazz for a while by the time I had to pick an instrument for 5th grade band. So I planned ahead and picked an instrument I knew I could play in jazz band once I got to 7th grade. I may have picked the saxophone because it was the coolest looking and had the most keys, but I soon fell in love with the instrument and my newfound jazz heroes who played it.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
In addition to sax, I also play clarinet and flute as well as basic piano. I use piano often in a composing/arranging capacity. I have played clarinet for 6 years and flute for 4. I have studied classically on these instruments quite a bit, and these days I play them as “doubles” in jazz bands and musicals as well, supplementing my saxophone parts.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
It has always been my dream to perform at jazz clubs in NYC and record albums as a band leader. Additionally, I have always been inspired by the amazing teachers who have helped me get where I am today, and I strive to bring that same inspiration to my own students.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
Going from high school to college, I had some rigid and undeveloped ways of thinking about improvisation that were holding me back. When I started taking lessons with Ben Schachter at Temple he showed me a series of exercises that turned my ideas of improvisation upside-down, starting from very simple exercises and quickly building up to complex and creative challenges. I will always remember these lessons because Ben showed me that there are many ways to approach a problem, and that you have to find the one that best clicks with you.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Dick Oatts likes to tell me that a great musician is hungry to learn from all situations. Take every gig you can and play with everyone, and be humble enough to learn from the players and gigs that are “below you” as well as the ones where you’re over your head. Every lesson you learn and mistake you make will get you closer to your goal as long as you have the determination and passion. 

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
Coming from saxophone, learning to navigate the complex fingerings of the clarinet was a real challenge for me. It took many hours playing repetitive finger exercises to feel comfortable on the new instrument.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
One of my biggest recent achievements was my senior recital. I had decided that I wanted to feature an octet playing my original arrangements, even though I had never written for any group that large. I worked hard to make the best arrangements I could, learning on the job, and by the time of my recital, I had a number of charts that I was really proud of.

Favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite aspect of teaching is when I come across a way of explaining a concept that really clicks for the student. Musical concepts are abstract and often difficult to put into words, but when the idea finally clicks with you, it’s like a lightbulb goes off in your head and all of a sudden it all makes sense. That’s a rewarding moment to get to as a teacher.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Passion and practice. First and foremost, music should always be a joyful activity. If it lacks a meaning to you, then what’s the point? If you have the passion for music, then practice is the key to your success. Even those with “natural talent” have to practice many hours to get where they are. Practice doesn’t have to be a drag though. Channeling your passion for the music in productive ways can make practicing a creative and fun endeavor.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
My most recent project is an octet, Sam Bishoff and the Scene. I started the group as an excuse to work on my arranging and composing skills and it has turned into an amazing learning experience. The musicians in the group inspire me all the time and leading such a large group has really helped my band leading skills.

Additionally, I play in two wedding bands. We cover pop music from the 40’s up to today at weddings and events all over the greater Philadelphia area. I also play many private parties as the Sam Bishoff quartet. I can often be seen playing at Milk Boy Philly during their Tuesday “Jazz Under the Stairs”.