Breaking walls through music

Julian Dixon with his tuba during a private lesson in Capistrano Hall.:


Julian Dixon with his tuba during a private lesson in Capistrano Hall.:

Andres Cuevas Jr.

During tough times, many people turn to music as a way to relieve their stress and focus their mind on better things.

For Julian Dixon, music is not only a way for him to release his own stress, but also a way to give back to the community by creating something positive.

“We all need music as humans. It is part of our nature – the universal language,” Dixon said.

Dixon, among other things, is a part time music lecturer at Sacramento State and also part of the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, where he plays the tuba.

He believes that through music, the barrier that stands between Sac State and the rest of the community can be knocked down. He recalls several recent instances where he truly felt like he made an impact by playing music.

“I went to an elementary school in Davis and all the little kids were just in awe while we played,” Dixon said. “There was this little girl there who started screaming every time I played a note on the tuba and that really stands out to me.”

Also, Dixon said that a lot of his efforts are focused on reinvigorating the music program at Sacramento High School.

“We went and played at Sac High and I felt we got a great response from all the students. (More than) 40 kids agreed and signed up to participate in a music program and wanted to bring it back,” Dixon said.

At the university level, budget cuts have affected Dixon and the rest of the music department at Sac State, including students and faculty.

“I was very impacted by the budget cuts and I actually lost a couple classes,” Dixon said.

Even though Dixon said he gets discouraged about the lack of funding for the music department, he insists on not stopping his plans to try and bring people together through music.

For example, last year Dixon took students to the International Tuba Euphonium Festival that took place in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“In terms of tubas, this festival is top of the line stuff. I thought it was important for my students to see, so we went,” Dixon said.

Also, the festival allows attendees to watch performances by distinguished artists, as well as attend master classes given by them.

Dixon’s student tuba quartet performed at the conference, alongside the rest of the talented musicians from around the world.

Recently, he was named the community engagement manager of the Sacramento Philharmonic, which keeps him very busy and involved with projects around Sacramento.

Gayle Winney, education director for the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, said that both she and Dixon work hard to have more music resources available for the youth and adults alike.

“We try to get businesses in our community to get involved with music and the arts,” Winney said.

Through the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, Dixon and Winney also work many local schools, varying from kindergarten classes all the way to college programs.

“Our jobs require us to work together a lot because we both deal with the same things: Engaging people in the community and businesses alike to keep art and music alive,” Winney said.

Dixon is also involved in the “Down in the Valley” festival that happens annually.

“The ‘Down in the Valley’ festival provides opportunities to become re-inspired with music for individuals who had music when they were younger,” Dixon said.

Dixon feels that many people view music as simply a luxury for only some to have. To the contrary, Dixon believes that music is for everyone and should not be treated as something only reserved for a few.

Dixon stresses that during the most difficult of times, people turn to music in order to bring positivity into their lives and to leave reality, even for just a few moments.

“It’s easy to get mad at the way things are and just quit what I’m doing because I’m not getting paid,” Dixon said. “But I understand how important music is to people and realize how important of a role I have by playing.”

Dixon also realizes how important Sac State is and what kind of role it plays for the community.

He said it is a place where different generations of people can mix, with music being one of the main keys to bringing people together.

“Society is very isolated in terms of generations and mixing. Sac State is a venue to bring people together and help them open up to new possibilities,” Dixon said.

Ernie Hills, chair of the music department at Sac State, feels that Dixon contributes a lot to the music program.

“Julian brings his enormous passion for music and he shows great commitment to our program,” Hills said.

Despite the potential and opportunities available through Sac State, Dixon senses something is still missing.

“People seem to be in a vacuum and lack stimulation. It’s like we are lagging a spark,” Dixon said.

Dixon feels that music can fill the sometimes long, spiritual distances between people who come from such diverse and different backgrounds.

“We are so divided as a people and music can play such a big part in bringing everyone together, as long as people let it,” Dixon said.

One thing that Dixon takes to heart is when people respond and listen to the level of care to detail in his music.

“I went to a Second Saturday at an art foundry to play, and people told me that the music sounded amazing. Things like that really inspire me and keep me going,” Dixon said.

He still feels that there should be more support coming from the community and school for the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Sacramento, we are here. We are your orchestra. Music does matter and we want to share,” Dixon said.

Andres Cuevas can be reached at [email protected]