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Rising Stars: Meet Wesly Walker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wesly Walker.

Hi Wesly, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Honestly, my journey started back while I was a student at Grambling State University. While a member of the “World Famed” GSU Marching Band in 2004, I was honored to play a private event on campus as a soloist. After that event, I knew I would continue to play beyond college in some form or fashion. Fast forward a few years and I relocate to Dallas, TX to attend graduate school. After completing a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology through SMU, I got the itch to perform and create again. I got my first break in Dallas when a local legendary guitarist called “AJ” invited me to bring my horn to an intimate jazz club called TePheJez. From there, I bounced around sitting in with different artists which included gospel group More Than Conquers w/BK Douglas, Smooth Jazz band Ascension, and the Funk/Reggae/Ska band Effinays. Without a doubt, my greatest musical experience while in Dallas was as a member of the New Life Community Church (Frisco, TX) band christened “the Posse” under the direction of Jerome and Charita Howard. In 2011, I joined a smooth jazz band with a few other hobbyists called Fourth Base Jazz (the founder was a baseball fan!). After a year of struggling for paying gigs, the founder stated he did not want to be responsible for bookings and handed the duties to me as I had become the “front man.” Soon after, the band dissolved and I decided to reach out to some of the artists I had previously worked with including Bassist Chris Witherspoon and Guitarist “Sly” Thomas. We then played a formal event for a local sorority in 2013 where my band was officially named Phoenix Rising Jazz.

Following the birth of my son, my wife and I chose to relocate to Houston, TX to be closer to our respective families. After a couple of years of learning more about Houston’s music scene, I branched out and was lucky enough to network with some exceptional, humble artists. My band’s original lineup was a trio consisting of myself, Arty Whittenburg (drums/vocals), and Edwin Brown (keys). Today, Phoenix Rising Jazz’s line-up includes myself on sax, Edwin Brown on keys, Phil McIntyre on drums, and Ricky Lominy on Bass. Additionally, regular collaborators include Guitarist Othell Minnis, keyboardist Mike Hobdy, drummer Keandre McClendon, and multi-instrumentalist Ronnie Coleman Jr. As a soloist, I’ve also been able to share the stage with Shonnie Murrell and Funk Potion No.9.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Lol, there’s no such thing as a smooth road for musicians who take their art seriously. My biggest struggle was always my confidence. Since I didn’t explicitly study music in college, I always felt intimidated when around degreed or more experienced musicians. My second largest struggle was overcoming the frustration caused by the lack of investment in Jazz by short-sighted venue owners/entertainment bookers.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Outside of being a saxophonist and band manager, I’m also a fully licensed and independent professional counselor, or LPC for short. I specialize in diagnostics, treatment planning, and risk assessment. I’m also experienced in working with clients suffering from substance use disorders, anxiety, depression, trauma, bipolar disorders, psychotic disorders, and racial/cultural minority issues. I’m most proud of the genuine connections I share with my clients. On what sets me apart, I’ve been told by some clients that they feel I’m “more authentic” in my approach to helping them learn to help themselves.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Be humble and okay with screwing up publicly lol. My first mentor was my high school band director, Dexter “DC” Compton. I was never “1st chair” but the foundation he laid with me in high school helped me prepare for my time at Grambling State. When AJ gave me my first shot in Dallas, my solos were absolute trash. I’m sincerely happy no one recorded it. But it helped me get experience and grow as an artist. He gave me pointers on how to approach solos and grooving in the pocket, which was reinforced and expounded upon by Jerome Howard.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Rhedeont Photography (Kali Rhe and Darryl D. Smith)

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