jazz saxophonist aims for the stars
By Thomas James
Published April 6, 2005
Mis will perform at Westlake Porter Public Library April 17
at 2 p.m.
mornings this past summer you would have found 13-year-old Elizabeth
Mis performing for tips outside a small coffee shop not far from
the Bay Village home she shares with her family. The sweet sounds
of her soprano and alto saxophones filled the small shopping plaza
where the coffee shop is located. "You play like you're twice your
age," was a compliment often tossed her way.
While a lot
of kids dream of being in a rock band, Elizabeth has chosen a much
different path. She has immersed herself into the world of contemporary
jazz. Her dream is to become a solo artist -- a star. And she appears
to be one of those people who possess the right amounts of chutzpa,
confidence and talent to turn such a dream into reality.
Her music education
began in typical fashion when her parents signed her up for clarinet
lessons at age 9. Less than two years later, one of those small
moments that changes everything occurred. As she sat in her room
working on her computer and listening to the radio, a song featuring
a soprano saxophone began to play. Elizabeth says she was so taken
with "that sound" she instantly went and begged her parents to allow
her to drop clarinet and learn soprano saxophone instead.
music was more than just lessons on Tuesday. It became her passion.
After only a year of experience on soprano sax, she decided to make
things more interesting by adding alto sax to her agenda. Within
six months she began to perform in public using both instruments.
her "sound" was achieved by spending hours in her room playing along
with recordings by her favorite artist. She became so practiced
with those songs that when one of her favorite performers scheduled
an appearance in Northeast Ohio, Elizabeth would be there -- and
not only to enjoy the concert.
When she learned
Christ Botti (who opened for Josh Groban's tour this past winter)
would be performing at the Tangier in Akron, Elizabeth insisted
her mom get them there early. Of course she wanted to meet Chris,
but she also wanted to ask to jam with him and his band during the
soundcheck. Chris was receptive to the request, and Elizabeth got
her chance to play along with him doing the same songs she diligently
practiced alone in her room for all those weeks.
came when the soundcheck was complete. Chris told Elizabeth's mother
he was completely blown away by her talent. He complimented her
on the sound she achieved with her soprano sax, "especially at such
a young age." And he also praised Elizabeth's confidence onstage.
jammed with Michael Lington, Brian Culbertson, Kim Waters and Grammy
nominated saxophonist Dave Koz. Elizabeth still uses the custom-made
reeds given to her by Dave. She was so relentless at getting backstage
at Dave's shows at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland that he finally
gave in and promised Elizabeth after-show passes whenever he's in
town. If you haven't figured it out, it was Dave's soprano sax that
Elizabeth first heard. And he's still by far her favorite performer
and biggest influence.
with her musical heroes is fun, a busy schedule of gigs is something
she enjoys even more. Elizabeth says she plays almost any gig she's
offered, and as a result, last year's busy schedule included performances
throughout greater Cleveland at a wide variety of venues -- everything
from a car dealership's grand opening in Elyria to Christmas performances
at garden centers in Bedford and Strongsville. But some of her gigs,
she admits, have been a bit more special.
This past November
she provided entertainment at a blood drive in Lorain sponsored
by radio station WCLV. Part of that experience was Elizabeth's first
broadcast interview. After her performance, show host Mark Sitola
paid Elizabeth a compliment by introducing her to his listeners
as "soprano and alto saxophonist extraordinaire, Elizabeth Mis."
Then, noticing her teeth during his interview of her he asked, "Is
it difficult to play such a challenging instrument with braces?"
Elizabeth's reply was a matter of fact: "I don't know. I've never
played without them." Such are the trials and tribulations of a
Elizabeth heard that Crocker Park, the new shopping district in
Westlake, would have entertainment at the public grand opening in
November. She begged her mother to call their offices to see if
there might be a spot for her. Her mother made the call and was
politely turned down, but hung up the phone with the distinct impression
that the reason for the rejection was Elizabeth's age. They just
didn't think a 13-year-old could be good enough to perform at the
Her pride piqued,
Elizabeth insisted her mother take her to the Crocker Park offices
so she could "show them." Darryl Whitehead of Crocker Park management
tells the story this way: "This young girl and her mother walk into
our office and ask if she can play the sax for us. Three notes into
the song and I wondered where in the program we could place her."
and her mom left his office, he asked Elizabeth for her autograph,
"I'm not waiting 10 years," he said. "It's going to happen." As
part of the Crocker Park gig, the audition also earned Elizabeth
an appearance on
Fox 8's "Kickin'
she discovered that jazz guitarist Peter White would be in Cleveland
to give a free concert, she e-mailed and asked if she could perform
a few songs with him. She was more than a little surprised, and
excited, when he agreed.
On Dec. 26,
Elizabeth took the stage with him in front of an audience of around
400 people at Pickwick & Frolic in downtown Cleveland. The veteran
performer treated her like an equal and welcomed her to show business.
On that day, Elizabeth was right where she wanted to be -- stage
center, performing her heart out. And she handled it like a seasoned
professional who had done it a thousand times before. Anyone lucky
enough to have been in the audience that Sunday afternoon was treated
not only to a great show, but to a glimpse of the future as well.
2004 performance schedule ended on that high note. But 2005's schedule
is already filling with what promises to be more shining moments
for the young musician. On May 29, Elizabeth is scheduled to perform
the national anthem on her alto saxophone at Jacob's Field before
the Cleveland Indians/Oakland Athletics game.
in hearing Elizabeth Mis perform can stop by Westlake Porter Public
Library on April 17 at 2 p.m. to hear her in a concert sponsored
by Friends of the Westlake Porter Public Library.