For South Carolina-based music educator and saxophonist Neal Postma (BM ’10), one might say his undergraduate stint at the College of Music launched both his professional pursuits and helped shape his personal priorities.
“[Associate Professor of Saxophone] Tom Myer really encouraged me to pursue sax performance,” recalls Postma, who went on to earn degrees from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (MM) and the University of South Carolina (DMA). “We’re still close today, and he remains a big influence in my life. He continues to be the person I call when I need advice.”
Not to mention, Postma also met his wife of seven years—Becky Morris (MM ’10)—at CU Boulder. A music educator and pianist, Morris currently teaches piano at the Columbia Arts Academy.
Together, they embarked on a three-year adventure near Guangzhou, China, where Postma served as Middle Years Program Director of Western Music at the Guangdong Country Garden International School, an International Baccalaureate-accredited institution.
“It’s often said that it’s difficult to build a career in the performing arts or arts education,” says Postma, who currently serves on the faculties of Winthrop and Claflin universities, where he teaches saxophone, clarinet and music appreciation, and directs chamber and jazz ensembles. “That’s why I encourage everyone who aspires to such a career to be as diverse in your field as you can—from music education to orchestral playing or jazz ensembles, to administrative and nonprofit work—and not allow yourself to be slotted into just one thing.”
True to his own advice, Postma’s multi-faceted career also includes master classes and recitals at CU Boulder and other institutions, to date including Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, the Denver School of the Arts, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and CCM. In the summers, Postma serves as the orchestra manager for the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra in Branson, Missouri.
“Especially now, in the middle of a pandemic, lots of orchestra musicians have found themselves out of work,” continues Postma. “But there’s still a wide range of opportunities in music.” Indeed, adapting to this time of social distancing, Postma has pivoted, offering virtual lessons to both saxophonists and clarinetists as a means for students from around the world to continue to develop their musical chops.
A proponent of new music, Postma is also known to commission and premiere solo and chamber works by a number of composers, including the College of Music’s Chair of Composition Carter Pann. A couple years ago, he premiered a work for two saxophones and piano by Adam Silverman at the World Saxophone Congress in Zagreb, Croatia; since then, he and Clifford Leaman recorded the work for Silverman’s album “The Things That Go.”
Additionally, Postma represents D’Addario Woodwinds as an endorsing artist and serves in their Woodwind Method Program, which provides pedagogy and promotes products at universities, public schools, lessons studios and retailers, as well as conferences across the country. In this capacity, Postma has delivered more than 100 clinics and supervises a team of clinicians. For the D’Addario Education Collective, he also produces articles, discussion topics, videos and graphics.
Arguably Postma’s proudest pursuit, however, is his active involvement with the American Single Reed Summit. He’s a founding member (2017) and current president of the summit, which features internationally renowned artists, hundreds of recitals, and a robust roster of lectures and master classes. Due to COVID-19, this year’s summit has been postponed to 2022.
“It started out with a small group of friends to bring clarinetists and saxophonists closer together,” Postma explains. “Sax players, especially, tend not to venture outside the sax world very much.
“Originally, it was going to be something a little more regional, but it’s quickly grown into a national event.”