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Local musician overcomes Tourette's Syndrome

BY CONRAD SWANSON | JULY 27, 2011 7:20 AM

Matt La Luz/The Daily Iowan
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Saul Lubaroff considers creating music and giving people pleasure one of the highest callings in life. The 46-year-old attributes much of his success as a musician to the Iowa City community.

Lubaroff, a classically trained musician, plays and teaches all of the woodwinds, but his talent and passion are most evident when he picks up a saxophone. He said he feels grateful for the community's recognition of his work.

"It's nice to be known for something you've worked so hard for and invested so much time in," he said.

He has played with a variety of local bands, such as Shade of Blue — voted the best Iowa City area band four times — WeFunk, a funkadelic tribute band to George Clinton and Parliament, and the Saul Lubaroff Quartet.

On July 23, the quartet performed at the Marriott in Coralville. The smooth jazz could be heard throughout the lounge and bar area.

To a casual listener, the band could have sounded like mere background noise as walking bass lines, muted guitar notes, and sweeping drum beats provided a simple, pleasant ambiance.

But the piercing sound of Lubaroff's saxophone is quick to catch listeners' ears.

Among the audience was Barbara McKenna, Lubaroff's girlfriend. She enjoys attending his shows and thinks Iowa City is a good fit for a well-rounded musician such as Lubaroff, who plays in a variety of bands.

"Every musician is like a puzzle piece, and they have to connect with the other ones that fit to form a band," McKenna said.

Lubaroff credits the presence of "good music" growing up as some of his first exposures to the music world. He said listening to such artists as the Beatles, Dave Brubek, and Duke Ellington provided a solid influential backbone for his musical career.

Lubaroff recalls one specific evening with his father at the University of Iowa's Clapp Recital Hall.

"I was sitting with my dad, hearing a tenor sax solo," Lubaroff said, "I turned to my dad and I said, 'I want to do that.' "

Lubaroff's life, however, hasn't always been that simple.

Lubaroff grew up with Tourette syndrome, and he admitted the adversity has been difficult. He said the involuntary vocal spasms, called tics, that come from Tourette have neither hindered nor helped his musical career, though.

"When a horn was in my mouth, I wasn't ticcing," he said.

When he isn't playing with numerous bands, Lubaroff teaches music, which has given him an opportunity to grow as a musician and help aspiring musicians improve.

"The fact that I'm a music instructor has helped my playing get better," he said. "The two coincide."

Lubaroff has two sons, Zane and Will, who he described as his best friends, but he said he is looking forward to the near future when they are both in college because he will be able to focus even more on his music. He might even travel to such places as New Orleans and New York to collaborate with other musicians, he said.

John Feldman, the assistant manager at Coralville West Music, where Lubaroff teaches, described Lubaroff as a staple of the Iowa City musical scene as well as an influential and successful teacher.

"If you haven't seen him, then you probably haven't been to very many shows," Feldman said.


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