Mitch Paliga

Born in the small mountain town of Libby Montana, I first heard music when my father would play the harmonica around the house. He liked to play old cowboy/folk tunes like “Red River Valley”. My father, Nick, learned how to play the harmonica as a young boy from his childhood friend Lido Vizuti. Lido is the father of the well known trumpet player Alan Vizuti. My mother, Joyce, also played trumpet when she was in high school so I was doubly inspired to play the trumpet but changed my mind to the saxophone at the last minute for reasons I still do not know.

In 1972 I joined the public school band program, started on alto saxophone and was hooked. My first teacher who was a wonderful sax/clarinet educator was Ken Berg. While in high school I encountered the soprano saxophone and became fascinated with it. After High School I went to Rocky Mountain College in Billings Montana for one year. I then transferred to Eastern New Mexico University where I bought my first soprano saxophone and found that this was my voice. I earned a bachelors of music degree at Eastern New Mexico University where I studied with Dr. Duane J. Bowen, a personal hero to me. I then went to the University of Illinois for a brief period but soon decided that I was not interested in more of the conventional academic way of learning. I stayed around the Central Illinois area and played in several groups such as the West African Highlife band Bontuku and the pop/rock/funk band Modern Humans as well as working in a variety of small jazz groups at the fabled Nature's Table. Eventually I moved to Chicago with my then future wife Shannon.

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