Will Holton has worked alongside such jazz greats as Najee, Stanley Clarke, Roy Ayers and Joseph Wooten. He's preparing to release his second disc, "Love Stories Untold Vol. 1" (featuring Ayers) in concert Saturday in the Tralf Music Hall. The talented Buffalo-born saxophonist has forged a successful career making the music he loves.
But it didn't come easy. Holton knows what it's like to battle adversity and to be picked on when he was young. "I was that kid. I was the one they would joke around with because I was carrying a saxophone on my back. I was the one who didn't have the most encouragement. My family didn't have a lot of money," Holton says. "It's the same thing going on today. Kids may not have the stylish gear or money to get instruments and they have to make do. These are the times we're living in."
To that end, Holton has created the "Reach Out & Lift Up" campaign to inspire youth to follow their dreams and to overcome negative peer pressure and bullying. The campaign kicks off Saturday with a free event in the Colored Musicians Club (145 Broadway) where kids and their families can meet Holton and other musicians, along with representatives from community organizations. There will be workshops for kids, plus music lessons, refreshments and a visit by Ashley Whiteside, Young Miss Buffalo Pageant winner of 2011.
"Reach Out" is an extension of the work Holton does in local schools where he talks, reads and performs for students as young as kindergarten. Holton, who remembers his father volunteering his time to do the same, hopes "Reach Out" will encourage young people to follow their dreams and achieve their goals through advice and programs offered by participating groups including Miss Barbara's School of Dance, Urban Christian Ministries, National Inner Cities Youth Opportunities, Read to Succeed of Buffalo and the Miss Boriquen of Western New York and Young Miss Buffalo scholarship programs. Those groups will be represented Saturday.
"It's more than music. It's more than the arts," he says. "It's whatever your passion is. If you have a vision, even as a young child, you need to know the steps to take [to realize it], despite the negative pressure you may get from home or school or peer presure or bullying.
"I want kids to take the littlest success and they will add up to a big success. That's what 'Reach Out' means to me."
Saturday's event lasts from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Colored Musicians Club. Later, Holton will perform a CD release concert as well as record a live disc in the Tralf. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the show is at 8:30 p.m. Musicians performing with Holton include Daniel "d.p." Powell, Rod Bonner, ROC "the Writer," Tifani, Kissena and Bruce Wojick. Tickets are $30 advance, $35 on Saturday and include a free CD. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Young Miss Buffalo and Miss Boriquen of WNY programs.