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Physician juggles music and medicine

Greg McDowell
Oshawa/Whitby This Week

It's a constant battle between music and medicine for local saxophonist Ted Brankston.

He loves music - and medicine - and although he is a doctor in Oshawa now, his tune may change in the future.

The local physician talks about a career of "half medicine, half music" years down the road depending on where he goes with his budding musical career.

"I really don't know where it's going to take me," he says calling his music "a very serious, consuming interest", not a hobby.

Dr. Brankston began playing music years ago, prior to enrolling in medical school in 1971 at Queen's University in Kingston. he then quit music - and sold his saxophone.

"I needed a few bucks - I had a wife and child and I sold the saxophone," he says. And so began a 12 year hiatus from music, although he took classes in music theory while at school and listened to plenty of classical music.

"I just can't believe I didn't miss it more," he says with obvious surprise.

"I have always been a good listener," and that is what he did - playing records and developing his interest in the classics.

The Kingston area, he says, is "musically pretty dead" and he didn't pick up an instrument until moving to Oshawa in 1980, when he began playing with the Herb Knox Durham Teachers' Stage Band.

During that year, he bought a saxophone and now has three - an alto, tenor and soprano. His musical career has since taken off.

He has given a number of local performances, including a recent engagement with the Oshawa Symphony and a two-hour concert with accompanist George Brough. Coming engagements include a concert in Hamilton.

Dr. Brankston believes in studying with masters - and he practices what he preaches.

He began taking lessons from Paul Brodie - one of Canada's top saxophonists - in 1983. In June he attended a five-day master class at Indiana University, under the direction of premier saxophonist Dr. Eugene Rosseau.

This summer he plans to travel to France to study for two or three weeks with French master Jean-Marie Loudeix, and then attend the next World Saxophone Congress in Japan in 1988.

"For me, if you put time and money into it I feel you should go to the best," he says

Ironically, Dr. Brankston wanted to play the bassoon which he played in highschool. Mr. Brodie suggested starting with the saxophone, and he was hooked.

"I enjoy the saxophone repertoire and I have continued on the saxophone," he says.

"I wish I could practise double what I can," Dr. Brankston says, noting that he picks up the sax about 15 hours a week at home, and not in the doctor's office.

His three children "are sort of neutral" about his classical playing, he says - preferring more modern tunes, like those of Hewey Lewis and the News.

In January Dr. Brankston will write an exam for a conservatory diploma for performance level. "I'm playing at that level now," he says.

To purchase Ted's debut CD
"I Want To Live" click HERE

"...one of the best classical saxophone recordings I've ever heard!"
David Gibson, Editor
Saxophone Journal 2004

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