Alumnus Returns to Campus to Perform with Jazz Ensembles

Darryl Yokley playing saxophoneDarryl Yokley (B.M. Performance, 2003), an up-and-coming jazz saxophonist and composer, returned to campus last week for a performance with the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Workshop.

The son of an African American father and a first-generation Mexican mother, Darryl relishes his diverse background and has developed a love for learning about and embracing the myriad of cultures around the world. He has fused this knowledge and experience in such a way that it is immediately apparent in his compositions and performances.

Initially setting out to be a concert soloist, Darryl met then-Duquesne faculty member James Houlik at a clinic in Lenoir, NC and quickly made the decision to come to Duquesne to continue studying with him. It was here that he started dabbling in jazz, studying with Mike Tomaro and playing in jazz ensembles.

Darryl Yokley plays saxophoneAfter graduating from Duquesne, he went on to Michigan State University to get his master's degree, continuing his goal of becoming a concert soloist while simultaneously working on his jazz technique.

Darryl moved on from Michigan state to perform and tour with Motown legends the Four Tops, the Temptations, and the O Jays, among many other big-name artists. He eventually made his way to the New York scene, where he is now a prominent performer, composer, and educator. He spent 11 years teaching at Westminster Conservatory and currently maintains a saxophone studio at the Fort Lee School of Music.

In 2010, Darryl put together his band Sound Reformation. They released their debut album, The Void, in 2012 to favorable reviews from jazz critics. Then, in 2018, Sound Reformation released their second album, Pictures at an African Exhibition, tying inspiration from Mussorgsky's classic Pictures at an Exhibition with his own experience. The album is a celebration of Darryl's outlook on humanity, diversity, and culture, which he calls out directly in the liner notes of the album:

"The idea that we are one human family is an ideology I have embraced since I was a child. Although it has been put to the test by the world and I've had my moments of doubt and falter, it is something I still believe can exist...It is my hope that we'll continue to grow in a positive direction towards becoming one human family and celebrating our diversity rather than allowing it to be divisive."

Coming back at his alma mater meant a great deal to Darryl. Following a rehearsal with the students, he spoke with them all about his journey so far, speaking in detail about the challenges he has faced, the amount of hard work he continues to put in, and how he balances all of that with his personal life.

The Duquesne University Jazz Ensemble performs

"It was such a pleasure to perform with Mike Tomaro, Jeff Bush, and the Duquesne Jazz ensembles," he said. "I was honestly a little nervous coming back to perform in a place where I was once a student struggling with many insecurities and trying to figure out my path, but at the same time, I was excited for the opportunity to see how far I've come. Things have changed on so many levels—from the larger diversity in the student body to the services available to students, I see that the School of Music is heading in the right direction, and I know it will continue to improve for future generations."

More information about Darryl can be found on his website.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

It's time for bigger goals
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