An Interview with Ryan Lillywhite, Acoustic customizer

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Getting to know Ryan Lillywhite, Cannonball’s tenor and bari saxophone acoustic customizing lead, a little better.

Tell us a little about what you do at Cannonball.

We all have a variety of responsibilities here, so I work in a few different areas. First and foremost, I play test, inspect, and acoustically customize the tenor and baritone saxes. I run the spare parts/repair department, manage some international accounts, help with our social media, and contribute to product and acoustical development and testing.

I understand you’ve lived in a lot of different places.

I have. I was born in Texas, so I like to joke that I have dual citizenship in that country and this one. I also lived near Atlanta and St. Louis, and a few places in northern Utah. I spent a summer in San Diego, and lived in Tahiti for two years.

 Tahiti?

Yes, I was there as a missionary for my church. They choose where we go, so I guess you could say I was pretty lucky! It’s a beautiful place with wonderful people, and not to mention delicious food.

 So do you speak a different language? 

French and Tahitian are used regularly in French Polynesia, so I learned both. I get to use French at Cannonball since I’m in charge of our distributor in France. Tahitian isn’t quite as practical in America, but I keep up with it since I’m an interpreter for regular church broadcasts in Tahitian.

 What are some of your hobbies?

I like to try new things, so I’m always getting into something different. I just sold an old muscle car I fixed up over the past few years. I also enjoy cooking as a creative outlet, sort of like improvising solos on stage. One year I cooked for the 36 people at our Cannonball Christmas dinner party. Chocolate chip cookies (and dough) are my favorite thing to make (and eat).

My wife and I stay pretty active, and recently ran a half marathon together. Utah’s an excellent place for outdoor sports; I’ve done a couple of 100-mile bike rides and hiked to many of the highest peaks in Utah. I enjoy working in the yard, and our vegetable garden is doing great this year. Another fun thing we do nearby is take the guns out for target shooting.

We have a beautiful daughter who is almost a year old now, growing and learning new things every day. Hobbies and pastimes are a lot of fun, but none can hold a candle to the joy of seeing that little smiling face.

Why did you choose to play the saxophone?

I started piano lessons at a young age, and the jazz & blues pieces were always my favorites. The summer before I started middle school (when I was already signed up for band but hadn’t yet picked an instrument) my dad came home with a tenor sax he had rented from the local music store. He had played tenor through high school, and could tell I would love it. He was right!

How did you find out about Cannonball? 

During my second year of college I had been playing a lot of soprano, and decided to buy one. I went into my local music store to try all the different brands and models, and the Cannonball Big Bell felt and sounded the best to me – by far. I didn’t want to put it down. A few years later, I met Tevis when we performed together at a concert, and we stayed in contact until I started working here.

What are your favorite perks about working for Cannonball?

I get to field test our prototypes, so I usually take the latest and greatest sax to my weekend gigs. The work environment here is very positive and it’s a fun place to be. I get to travel to trade shows, see new places, and meet new people. And, of course, I get paid to play saxophones every day – life is good!

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