Originally Published March 1, 2007
Lance Rickman is a name you might not be too familiar with. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of staff and faculty members on campus any one of us would not know just by hearing his or her name. The background of these people would be even more foreign to students.
But chances are, as a locksmith here at CSUN, Rickman has fixed a lock or two around campus that probably helped not make you late for class.
What you might not know is Rickman is also a musician who has probably played music with your favorite band, or maybe your parents’ favorite band.
Rickman is a multi-faceted musician, playing the saxophone, flute and piccolo, a talent not often found in your average locksmith, a talent some of his co-workers did not know about.
“I remember when I first found out Lance was a musician was ten years ago,” said Eric Hopper, a co-worker of Rickman who works in the shop area. “We had a company Christmas party and he showed up and played and it was really good, very professional.”
Others were introduced to Rickman’s musical side when first meeting him. “Just through conversation, Lance would speak about the gigs and jobs he gets every weekend,” said Jeremy Boggs, a senior at CSUN who works at the lock shop with Rickman. “He is always telling us about jazz music and jazz bands. He has opened my eyes to a lot of different music just working with him on this job and his familiarity with music.”
But Rickman was never out to create the antithesis of some Bruce Wayne persona of a locksmith to his saxophone-playing Batman. The past two generations of his family had become well established in the locksmith trade-the path was a natural choice for Rickman.
“My whole family, my father, my mother, my sister, are all locksmiths,” Rickman said.
“The thing about locksmithing is that it is so eclectic, there are so many aspects of being a locksmith that you learn a lot.”
But the interest in music was something that Rickman was neither able nor willing to ignore. High school is where Rickman said jazz music gained a firm grasp on his interest, although he dabbled in jazz, he played more blues oriented pieces as a member of the school band at Racho Jr. High in Milpitas, Calif. “In high school, the jazz band (I was in) was a lot more jazz oriented, which really drew me into the music. Then I started taking private lessons as well,” Rickman said.
Originally a huge fan of the funkier, more popular rhythm and blues, Rickman felt that the key to becoming a better musician playing the genres he fell in love with, was to establish a firm understanding of jazz music. “My favorite music is funk r’b,” Rickman said. “I can play that stuff for the rest of my life. But the thing is that it has jazz influences in it. What I wanted to do was become a more proficient jazz musician so my pop and funk R’B would become better too.”
While most juniors and seniors were preoccupied with the trials and tribulations that are part of the adolescent territory, as a teenager, Rickman made his entrance into the professional world of playing jazz music.
In his last two years of high school, Rickman started to receive phone calls for music gigs. After those had come and gone, Rickman joined the musician unions in San Leandro and Oakland, as a means of getting his name out into the industry. As a member of the two unions for several years, Rickman became well versed in myriad music genres as he played gig after gig.
“I would get trust fund gigs, I would play at prisons, community park gigs, Latin (styled music) gigs, casuals here and there,” Rickman said.
Rickman’s talent was noticed equally, if not more, in college as in high school. It was the professors, at both California State University Hayward and CSUN, whose encouragement progressed his growth as both a professional performer and a musician in general. “After the professors started to notice I had talent, they would invite me to play gigs with them and their assistants and that is when I started taking working as a musician a lot more seriously,” Rickman said.
His notoriety in the Southern California music scene as a saxophonist has been a major means of getting work. Word-of-mouth recommendations were the way he became a member of almost every band he has been a part of, including the first one outside of school. “I will be out playing a gig and someone will come up to you and ask, ‘Hey, I really like what you do, can I get your card’ and the next thing you know, you are playing in their band.”
It was also by word of mouth that he was recommended to play with the American Idol band as they backed past winner Taylor Hicks on “The Tonight Show” and “Good Morning America.”
“Their keyboard player knew that I could play and that I could cover what Taylor (Hicks) had me do for The Tonight Show,” recalled Rickman, who was asked to come and play after the American Idol Band’s saxophonist couldn’t make the performance. “They called me up that day and said ‘get your butt down here to NBC Studios, we need you for ‘The Tonight Show.'”
But the last-minute call came with last minute responsibilities, and Rickman had to uphold his reputation, breathing new life into Hick’s hit, “Do I make you proud,” with his own saxophone part not previously included in the song. “They brought me to the studio and I was expecting to have some sheet music handed to me,” Rickman said. “I asked them, ‘So where is the saxophone section?’ They looked at me and told me, ‘You are it.'” After he was given creative freedom to mold the music how he saw fit, Rickman and the band did a one take rehearsal, then performed it live on national television-which went off without a hitch.
Rickman showed the same grace under fire when he traveled with the American Idol band for “Good Morning America” in 2006. Without a rehearsal and technical difficulties occurring in succession, along with the threat of the rain ruining their outdoor performance, Rickman and the band played the song live on television perfectly in front of a crowd of 500 onlookers.
This was hardly Rickman’s first time playing with famous bands-just his most recent. Rickman has backed everyone from Guns N’ Roses to Tony Bennett, who praised Rickman’s professionalism and musicianship, an experience that Rickman said was an honor.
Rickman has just finished a song with recording artist Armand Tulumello, playing the flute to back vocalist Simone. His album is currently in the works, a project that Rickman is confident will bring his name even more established in the professional world. But Rickman isn’t in a rush, taking his time to make a product that he will be proud of as well as being a reflection of his passion for playing. Rickman said,
“When you really have a passion for something, don’t let anything get in the way it or how you want it done. Because long after whatever it is you gave up for (your passion) is gone, that love for whatever it is that you are passionate about will still be there.”