Introducing the band

On Alto Sax: Susan Hawthorne


Susan Hawthorne began her career in “swing music” as a preschooler by singing lustily enough on her backyard swing so all the neighbors could hear. She began piano lessons at age five after her parents noticed her playing her older brother’s piano pieces by ear. Several hundred music lessons later (and after flute and organ were also added), Susan completed a degree in Vocal Music Education from Wichita State University. She soloed with choirs and small ensembles in Kansas, and with the Lane Justus Chorale of Tucson. She has directed adult’s, children’s and chime choirs, and is currently a member of the Thornydale Family Church worship band on keys and vocals. Susan has served the community through the years by singing at care facilities, in benefit concerts, and helping with Music Mends Minds (a program to provide musical stimulation for those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases). She teaches private voice, flute and piano lessons in her home, and voice and piano at the Music & Arts North Tucson store.

What made this classical singer venture into swing saxophone? The roots of Susan’s love of swing date back to hearing her parents’ Glenn Miller records as a youngster. The next generation had a hand in things too, as Susan’s son gave her a 25-dollar, yard-sale saxophone. Her husband patched it up, and, as a 48-year-old, Susan had a blast (literally) with this new, rather raucous, noise-maker. Later, she found a sweeter sax on Ebay from the 1930’s, and playing became a deeper pleasure. After seven years of gleaning tips from Youtube on saxophone technique, Susan decided to pursue private lessons, taking from Joe DeRaad, and later studying jazz improvisation with Mike Kuhn. She plays in Saddlebrooke Winds and Strings, NICO (Northwest Intergenerational Community Orchestra), a local flute quartet, and in the Oro Valley Jam sessions. She was invited into Retro Swing 7 in 2018.

For the last several years, Susan has produced an annual full-length Celtic and Crossover CD, recorded as a one-woman-band and singer, using audio software for multi-track recording or “over-dubbing.” WARNING: songs may contain bagpipes! Yes, several years ago, Susan’s husband gave her a rather needy set of pipes, and then proceeded to bring them up to a more presentable state. Hubby’s hearing is preserved by the fact that the walls inside Susan’s little studio are coated with foam, hence its affectionate title of The Padded Cell.

Susan is a career member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, consulting on audio needs and music copyright considerations. She also aids in setting up their online materials to be more easily accessed by the linguistic and indigenous communities. She loves teaching and sharing music in multiple genres with multiple generations.