Francisco B. Saucedo: An Original Santa Ana Artist, Part I

This will be a two-part feature on Frank Saucedo, a lifelong resident and artist of the city. Frank demonstrated artistic inclination early on in life and applied his artistry to drawing, painting and music. Part I is about his musical side and Part II will be about his visual arts side.

Frank, a composer, saxophonist and arranger tells more:

Santa Ana Sentinel: Tell us about yourself

Francisco Saucedo: I grew up and went to school here, and music kept me from making bad decisions in life.

SAS: When did you start making music?

FS: I started in fourth grade, where I picked up my first instrument, the sax. This was a Wilson elementary over on Baker and Washington.

SAS: So music kept you out of trouble?

FS: It kept me out of trouble because during that time when I was in high school there were a lot of gangs, and people that I grew up with in school were joining gangs. Back then, you were considered part of a gang by default, just by living in whatever neighborhood had whatever gang. So it was around that time that I was offered my first job as a saxophonist in a norteño (regional Mexican) music group. I was in my sophomore year in high school and I was playing four nights a week.

SAS: So you stuck with music through elementary, junior high and high school?

FS: Yeah. I spent my freshman year in Texas, and that is where I got into jazz. This is also where I wrote my first composition for jazz ensemble.

    A Latin Jazz arrangement with revisions by Saucedo

SAS: You got your first exposure to jazz in high school and you continued doing jazz at Santa Ana College?

FS: I was originally a business major when I got there but it wasn’t until after I took a World Music class as an elective with Shane Cadman that I decided on majoring in music. I took big band jazz and Latin jazz and got more into composition while at SAC.

SAS: So when you got more into composition, you got into art music. How did you get into art music?

FS: I started taking applied music lessons for saxophone and again, Shane Cadman, my applied music teacher, was a major influence on me. He’s a saxophonist and a minimalist composer and I got exposure to 20th century art music for saxophone through him.

    Manuscript of Saucedo's Suite for Seven Winds

SAS: How much art music have you composed?

FS: I haven’t composed what I consider any major pieces but I can say that I’ve racked up about seven or eight pieces that I’ve written in my lifetime. My biggest challenge and endeavor was a suite for seven winds. I haven’t had it played live yet but I’ve shown it to other composers and teachers and they like it, I got pretty good feed back.

SAS: You’ve composed jazz influenced music and you’re also an arranger. You did a piece called “Noches” for jazz ensemble and you’ve also written a number of songs for Christian music settings and for Latin pop settings right?

FS: Yeah, I’ve always loved poetry and words and when I discovered a way to combine both (music and poetry), I wouldn’t say I’m an avid songwriter, but people have liked some of the stuff that I’ve done. I’m not one to follow pop culture, I’m more of one that if I like something or if that something moves me, then I write it.

    Saucedo's Suite for Seven Winds entered into Sibelius notation software

SAS: Do you have links to where your music can be heard?

FS: Not yet, I’m in the process of building my studio and redoing a lot of my stuff on Finale (a music software program). One of my goals is to get things recorded. I have a stepson now and I want to leave him a musical legacy in case he decides that he wants to jump into this world. I want to leave him a firm musical foundation.

One of my biggest focuses that I have in music is the people that I’ve met doing music. I don’t have many friends like I used to but being able to talk music with the few friends that have stuck around is like coming back home after a long trip.

In 2001, I had an unfortunate incident where I got sick, I had some heart trouble and my life stopped. I had just been accepted to Cal State Fullerton as a composition major. I had scholarships coming my way and I wanted to do the whole composer thing, like writing for films and games. But all of that came to a stop when I got sick.

But I remember one thing that you told me, something that always echo in my mind up to this day, which is something that changed my perspective, and that is when you told me that I didn’t need a degree to be a composer. That really closed a chapter in my life, because I felt that I had failed. But I was fortunate to have you always sharing your ideas and what you’ve learned with me. Life takes different turns but you manage to come back to what you love and I’m in the process of that.

Music to me is like a footprint, you make a footprint and then you leave. You walk a certain distance with it and you leave something behind, someone else takes off from there and that’s how it goes.

In Part II of this feature, Saucedo discusses the process of creating his visual art.


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