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Utah Witherspoon, Custodian

March 19, 2008

  Photo by John Seyfried

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Lorain, and that's where my home is now.

How did you come by your name? I am the ninth in a family of 10 children. The other kids had more common names, but my mom decided she wanted something different for me. She looked in a name book and just liked the sound of the name, so I got stuck with it.

What do you like to do when you aren't on the job? I play alto, tenor, and soprano saxophone.

What kind of music do you like to play? I like to play jazz and blues, primarily. I've performed with Dave C. and the Sharptones, a great Cleveland band that plays blues and old soul. People also contact me to play solo at company events, weddings, and in other small venues. I recently formed a smooth jazz duo, called G-N-T, with my friend Greg Moore. He's the "G". I'm "T," for Taah, which is what my friends call me. We play everything—[the music of] Grover Washington, Peter White, Burt Bacharach, Larry Carlton, and Foreplay—and a few of our own compositions. We'll be playing at Single Tree Winery on Saturday, March 29.

How did your interest in music come about? My mom was a singer, and my dad was a piano player. I grew up listening to everything from classical music to rock and blues. I had one year of private lessons and learned the rest from reading books and meeting people who taught me and gave me advice. I listen to a lot of music, play every day, and enjoy improvising. Louis Armstrong, a great improviser, was an early inspiration.

What do you like about Oberlin College? The student recitals are very enjoyable. I try to attend as many as possible. I go to the Conservatory library often to read. And, after seven years of working here, I'm thinking of taking some classes in music history and theory.

I have known Utah ever since he was a junior in high school. I allowed Utah and his group practice at my bar grill call Happy's back in the late seventies. He was a young man the lot enthusiasm and ambition to B a great musician. The last time we were together was that Nighttown nightclub in Cleveland check it out turn planted in his group. I introduce Utah to the entertainment manager so that you can make arrangements to come up and play that Nighttown his friend Jackie Warner. If you wanted to go to the next level he could, he has the talent to compete with the likes of today's smooth sax players!

Donald L Warfield (Nov. 30, 2016)

I dated Chris Ceja many, many years ago. I am also friend with Doug John's, (Buzz). I was so excited to here your name. I hadtolookypu up. I have a good friend of mine who is a Russian and theatre teacher in Oberlin. ( Dr. Timothy Scholl ). Maybe you know him. I remember you when I was very young. Im glad your still playing!!!

Peggy kilroy (Nov. 16, 2015)

I never knew this much about you, ha, ha. Your story is very inspiring, Utah or Tah(cool), and I hope you know you make people smile with your talent. I have grown up in a house full of music, as well. My parents always had music playing and we often danced and sang together as a family. Although, the application of music introduction was different, I can't seen to many chores without playing my soft jazz music playing (loudly) and throwing in a dance or two while I am cleaning. I love listening to my music while I am driving. I often thing of Center Stage when a song come on and very dearly miss you, Doug, Chris, Junior, because you guys played with your hearts and the audience felt it! It was a good time, I for one will never ever forget and you are still very much appreciated in your own right with you and Greg. Your music touches the audiences of those who really appreciated good soft jazz. Anyway, take care and hope to see and hear you soon, Lord provides my health stays in tack. Even if I can just listen, that would be good too! Take Care and God Bless.

Hope Johnson (Sept. 18, 2012)