Melissa Aldana Lets Her Playing Speak for Itself

By 
Katie Gibson
October 17, 2019

The award-winning saxophonist talked about her career, musical influences, and putting in the work in a visit with the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

Melissa Aldana talks to a group of students and faculty members.
Melissa Aldana with Kris Davis, associate program director of creative development for the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice
Image by Ben Pu
Image by Ben Pu

Chilean saxophonist and Berklee alumna Melissa Aldana B.M. '09 dropped by Berklee this week as a guest at the Gathering, an event series presented by the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. Aldana, a third-generation professional saxophonist, talked about her creative journey and answered students’ questions about practicing and facing gender discrimination as a performer. 

The following is an edited collection of Aldana's comments and advice. 

On Practice 

“I love to practice. I wouldn’t feel like I was doing the right thing if I didn’t practice and try to get a little bit better every day. I practice because I love to do it. And it feels worth it to me.”

On Coming to Berklee

“Growing up in Chile, I didn’t really have the chance to see other young performers, especially not women. The most amazing thing [at Berklee] for me was just to be around other musicians that played on a higher level.”

On the Legacy of Her Father, Marcos Aldana

“I think the most important skill my dad gave me is discipline and love for the process. [He taught me] what it takes to achieve something, whatever it is.” 

On Gender Discrimination

“It’s important to acknowledge [gender discrimination] and be a role model. But it’s important not to let it get under my skin. It takes me out of what is the most important thing, which is doing my job.”

On Being a Role Model

“The music should always come first. If I’m in an all-female band, it’s because everyone can play at a high level. The best message we can give to the next generation is through role models: strong females that can play the instrument and have something personal and strong to say.”

The Gathering continues with Georgia Anne Muldrow on Monday, October 21.

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