The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Joe LaRussa

We have many talented artists and creatives living and working in our Farmington/Farmington Hills community and our weekly interview series, sponsored by City Life Realty, will introduce you to some of them.

Today we feature musician and saxophonist Joe LaRussa.

When did you first get started in music? 

I started playing the saxophone when I was 9 years old. I started on a school-issued horn and my parents bought me my own alto sax when I got to 6th grade. I still play on that horn today. 

Did you receive formal musical training?

The only instruction I received was in high school. I’ve been fortunate to share the stage with some great musicians and attend festivals all over the world that include opportunities to clinic with these players. I find it’s a lot like playing sports with others who are better than you. That makes you want to play up to their level and work as hard as you can to do that.

Art generates pride in a community. It’s worthy of investment, promotion, and celebration!

Can you describe something you’ve created that is particularly meaningful to you? 

I’ve always been more of an ensemble player, leaving the solo work to my lead players since they have more formal music education and, in many cases, play professionally. This past summer, however, I had the chance to take a solo on “Whisper Not”, a tune written and performed by Benny Golson. We played the Jazz a Juan Festival in Antibes, France, along with some other community concerts on the French Riviera, and I got to solo for these large audiences, and I was really proud to be able to hang with the cats in my group. They were all very encouraging and gave me great tips for soloing on that chart, all the while urging me to explore my own ideas for the music. It was awesome!

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists? 

Be persistent. Show up. Work hard. Have fun. Just doing these things has gotten me to some of the most prestigious stages in the world, and into the orbit of some of the best talent there is.   

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a local community? 

Art gives life context and gives substance to the abstract. In many ways, art can be the first impression a community can have on visitors. It also engages residents in ways that business and government simply can’t. Local communities with vibrant art scenes are livelier, and art naturally attracts people to it. Art generates pride in a community. It’s worthy of investment, promotion, and celebration!

You can find Joe on Instagram at @jlarussa1.

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