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The saxophone heard around the world: Chris White reflects on his music career

The Straits will perform at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 3 at Kleinhans Music Hall

BY: Lauren Kirchmyer | February 20, 2014

Chris White was only 14 years old he picked up a saxophone for the first time. Within a month he knew he was going to make a career out of music. What he didn’t know was his talent would lead him to world tours, working with music legends and playing in a Grammy Award-winning band.

In 1985, White joined British rock band Dire Straits. His saxophone skills were recorded on the band’s albums “On Every Street” and “On The Night;” and he performed on the “Brothers In Arms” and “On Every Street” world tours and at the Live Aid and Mandela concerts.

The band came to an end in 1995, but their legacy lives on with The Straits, a Dire Straits tribute band White created with Dire Straits’ keyboard player Alan Clark.

“We had a call to do a charity show at Albert Hall in London,” White explained. After the call, the duo called up a few musician friends who all agreed to perform with them at the show. “It went really well. It’s fun to work with those guys.”

The crowd enjoyed their performance so much people requested for them to continue playing gigs.

“We stayed together. One gig led to another and we have a lot lined up, including coming back to the USA,” White said. “I’m loving every minute of it, I still enjoy touring.”

Besides White and Clark, The Straits consists of Terence Reis, Michael “Mick” Feat, Andy Treacey, Adam Phillips and Jamie Squire. Over the past couple years, the band has toured around Europe, Israel and Scandinavia, and will soon be touring America together for their first time.

You don’t have to travel far to see The Straits as they will be performing at Kleinhans Music Hall at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 3. “I hope it’s not too snowy,” White said with a laugh.

“We try to get intimate venues,” White explained. “It’s absolutely brilliant to meet [our fans]…and the reaction has been stunning and humbling. After all these years, people still really want to hear this stuff and see it live.”

What White has noticed, compared to past tours, is they have a loyal fan base with a lot of fans coming back to see them, but also a new and younger fan base that have discovered their music through their parents and the Internet.

“It’s great to see this cross-section of people who remember us from Dire Straits and the young fans who picked us up from somewhere,” White said. “I’m glad to say, not to be boastful, by the end of the night everyone is standing up and bopping around.”

At concerts, The Straits play a mixture of songs from the Dire Straits catalogue, including hits like “Romeo and Juliet,” “Communique” and “Sultans of Swing,” but not necessarily the way fans know the songs to be.

“Working with this group of musicians, they bring a new energy,” White said. “When you’re playing live there’s instant feedback and it’s such a buzz.”

Out of all of his experiences in his career up to this point, there is one moment that stands out above the rest.

“Meeting Paul McCartney was unreal. He was a hero to me as a kid growing up,” White said. Other memorable moments include performing at the Live Aid concert and the time he was invited to work with Ray Charles in Paris.

White’s life changed the day he picked up his first saxophone. With a lot of hard work he has been able to live out his dreams, and he has some advice for those who want to be in his shoes someday. “Go for it, absolutely. It’s a tough game but give it everything you’ve got. Don’t let fear stop you at any point.”

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