MUSKOGEE, Okla. — You might say saxophonist Jermaine Mondaine's first performances were in front of his childhood home.
"It was my favorite practice spot," Mondaine said. "I loved practicing on the front yard. I didn’t realize how many people, from blocks away, would come outside and listen to me play. I'm finding out there was a bunch of people who used to sit outside and listen to me."
Mondaine's music has gone around the world since those "concerts" on 13th Street.
He said he recently has been heard on the satellite and streaming radio network Sirius XM. He said people can hear his music on the network's Water Colors smooth jazz channel.
Mondaine said his parents influenced his music. He said his father was a big jazz fan. He recalled playing music in church with his mother.
"Church provided me a very supportive platform where I could play music and be encouraged by church members," he said.
Mondaine's faith infuses his music.
"I've been told it is too churchy to be jazz and too jazzy to be church," he said.
Mondaine said performing and recording takes up about 40 percent of his time. He also owns a marketing franchise and is an associate pastor at The Bridge at Christ Church.
He shows his commitment to Muskogee as president of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame board. He also is vice president of the Education Foundation of Muskogee. He has emceed the Foundation's annual Trivia Challenge for the past several years.
Music shapes Mondaine's identity
Jermaine Mondaine credits an influential West Junior High teacher for inspiring his music.
"Jim McPherson, he was so good at teaching, it felt like everyone was getting private lessons," he said. "We were playing college-level music by the time I was in eighth grade."
Mondaine recalled playing in state champion jazz bands in 11th and 12th grades.
"And I credit that to us being the last of the McPherson clan," he said. "Pretty much all my classmates from there went on to play music professionally: Chris Farrell, Leonard Obregon, you name it."
He said music has shaped who he is.
"It paid my way through school. It keeps the lights on at my house," Mondaine said. "It feeds me, and I like to eat. Music has taken care of me and my family."
He said that through his CDs and playing on Sirius XM, "it has allowed me to have access to the world."
Mondaine said one of his songs hit number 1 on the Sirius XM soft jazz station, Water Colors (Channel 66) for a few weeks.
"Which blows my mind, because my song was number one over all of my idols: George Benson, David Sanborn, and all the best of the best," he said. "My song was being played with those guys. It has given me something to be proud of. Helped form my identity."
Ministering through encouragement
Mondaine said he preaches a positive message as associate pastor of The Bridge at Christ Church.
"I love encouraging people," he said. "Anybody who knows me will tell you that I'm an encourager. If I were to sum up my ministry and talk about it in one word — even if we were talking about the music ministry — it's still encourager."
He said he loves encouraging people to think big. He recalled preaching a message he called "who in hell told you that."
"The premise of that message was 'who told you, you can't do bigger. Who told you, you can't do better. Who was that voice who told you, you can't do great things," he said. "My ministry is all about encouragement, and encouraging people to think bigger."
Mondaine said he has preached and played at churches in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and, often, in Dallas.
"I typically just play with sound tracks," he said. "Sometimes I gather a band. Different churches, different denominations, I show up."
He said the songs he plays at the churches — and on his CDs — also offer encouragement.
Finding the job that fits
Mondaine gained early marketing experience in the Muskogee Phoenix advertising department. He was an account executive, manager and director. The work kept him busy.
He later went into the printing business at Franklin Graphics.
"It was a serious pay cut," he said. "But it was peace of mind to know that at 5 p.m., the day was done."
Mondaine sent his resume out again and landed a position with a Cleveland marketing company, Proforma.
"They flew me out to Cleveland and told be about the possibility of being a franchise owner," he said.
He started his franchise in 2011.
"Anything that can have a logo or name printed on it, I do, from large format printing like billboards, down to business cards," he said. "Ink pens, coffee mugs, promotional products."
Mondaine does most of his marketing work from a computer desk in his living room
"Interestingly enough, 95 percent of Proforma owners do it from their home," he said, describing his job as a "distributor."
He said he does the initial design at his house, but items are printed and distributed elsewhere.
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
"My parents are from St. Louis, Missouri, and my father really wanted to give us kids the opportunity to be raised somewhere other than St. Louis. There's a lot of violence, a lot of drugs."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
"It's a small community. I like the fact that I have pediatrician's cell phone number, and the past four or five mayors' cell numbers. That's not something you get just anywhere."
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
"More vision. I mean that from the leadership all the way down to the local residents. More vision. I'm a Christian man, and I live by the scripture that says 'without a vision the people perish.'"
WHAT PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
"It's hard to pinpoint it to one person. My parents obviously had a huge impact on who I am. Jim McPherson, who was the junior high band director at West Junior High, taught me to play. Richard McCall, who was a junior high band director, assistant band director at high school, and he was also my college band director."
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
"At Franklin Elementary in 1984, the West Junior High jazz band did a recruiting concert at my elementary school. They handed out pamphlets that said circle the instrument you're interested in. I circled 'saxophone.' I showed it to my father and he took me down to Updike Music and bought me my first saxophone."
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
"Is there such a thing. Music is part career, so I can't say it's spare time. But there are a lot of music engagements I'm involved in because they're pro bono. Playing at churches is huge to me. I do love spending time on social media."
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
"Where everybody knows everybody. I've often been told you can get anywhere in the world from Muskogee."