Sugimoto, who teaches Introduction to American Music as well as private saxophone lessons and directs the college’s jazz combo, participated in the esteemed fest in 2015 and 2018 with different bands. This is the first time she performed on saxophone as leader of a group.
This year, the Chicago Jazz Festival committee hosted three organizations that influence the Chicago jazz community, which then selected an artist to represent their time slot at the Chicago Cultural Center. The Asian Improv Arts Midwest chose Sugimoto.
“I was excited and honored to perform at the festival as a leader for the first time and also as a minority in the jazz scene — Asian and woman,” she said. “I’m happy with how the set went and was glad to hear positive feedback from the audience. A lot of the things I had been working on and preparing for influenced the positive outcomes of the performance. I want to use this experience as a reminder to keep moving forward and improve my future projects and performances. Keep doing it, and do it better each time!”
Her group played a set of original compositions she wrote for her first album as a leader released in 2018, “Born/Raised.” Since releasing the album, the quartet has performed at the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival in November 2018 and the Isthmus Jazz Festival in Madison, Wisconsin, in June 2019. Sugimoto also performs regularly with various groups in Chicago.
Experiences like this help her become a more effective teacher all around. “Relevance is key in order for one to be an effective and inspirational instructor of any kind. Being relevant as an instructor in my case means that I am still learning, progressing and working my tail off to become an artist that I aspire to be just as I hope my students are doing,” she explained. “As long as I am teaching, I don’t want to stop learning and working on my craft because that is the best way for me to be an effective and hopefully somewhat inspirational instructor.”