From the moment Ed “Sax” Thomas first picked up the saxophone, he knew that music was his calling.
Thomas’s musical career kicked off at 14 years old, when he joined the marching band at Hughes High School and began playing at his local church’s services. “I had a pastor who was very encouraging to youngsters at the time, and he just encouraged me to bring it to church, so I ended up playing,” says Thomas.
Thomas gained experience through the minister of music at his church, Dr. Charles Fold, the late Grammy-award-winning musician. “He was so influential in helping me gain experience while playing the saxophone,” says Thomas. He also gained inspiration from Eddie Love, his band teacher at Hughes High School, as well as professional saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. “He was my biggest influence during my formative years.”
He continued playing saxophone throughout high school in hopes of professionally studying music after he graduated. But Thomas instead put his musical career on hold after receiving a scholarship from Procter & Gamble to study science. “I took the scholarship in hopes of getting that behind my belt, and then I would get out of college and go back to music school,” says Thomas, “but I never did because P&G offered me a job afterwards.”
Thomas spent 40 years working with P&G, and during that time was able to find a new way to continue honing his saxophone skills. “A lot of people don’t know this but, P&G has a large band of employees who have played instruments who didn’t go to study music professionally,” Thomas says. “I played with that band for almost 15 years while I was with P&G just to hone my skills and for my love of music.”
As Thomas’s time with P&G ended, he was able to shift his focus back onto his music career. In 2016, he released his first CD, Be Patient with Me, which features 11 spiritual songs played by Thomas on his saxophone. Three years later, he released his second CD, which features eight Christmas songs. When he started releasing music, Thomas adopted the nickname “Sax” to promote his music career with a stand-out moniker. “The name has caught on beyond what I could have imagined,” he says.
The success of his music has also gained local attention—he currently spends his weekends playing engagements at area restaurants, parties, and private events. He has also had many opportunities to play large-scale events such as a Miami Heat’s basketball game and a Cincinnati Reds game, where he was chosen to play the national anthem for thousands of sports fans. “I’m all over the place—restaurants, churches, you name it,” says Thomas. “I love it. I love playing, I love sharing.”
As his musical career continued, Thomas became an inspiration to many of the young people around him. He works with and teaches young people in his church who are interested in playing the saxophone and helps them start their music career in the same way he did: by encouraging them to bring their instruments to church and participate in worship services.
“I would encourage students to bring their saxophone to church to play. Over time, we established a small youth orchestra to play on special Sundays,” he says. Thomas steadfastly encouraged them to pursue their musical passions no matter what. “I would always remind the budding saxophonists to always continue playing their instruments, that they didn’t necessarily have to major in music to play their instrument.” Now, Thomas has several students who have continued playing and become semi-professional saxophonists. “It’s phenomenal,” he says.
Thomas hopes his music continues to impact those around him. “It’s hard to describe to people how music moves us, and how it plays on our emotions,” he says. “You know, my hope is just that people listen to my music and be inspired.”
Thomas is currently working on a new album, set to be released in the spring of 2023. If you’re looking for an opportunity to see Ed “Sax” Thomas in action or find his recorded music, you can find updates on his public performances on Facebook, as well as on edsaxthomas.com.