Saxophonist Arturo Tappin shares his vision with AAV
If you’re familiar with music greats like Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross, you may also know saxophonist Arturo Tappin, who has toured with Flack, Vandross and many others. Tappin hails from the Caribbean island of Barbados, where his father was his greatest musical influence, and he attended the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
All About Vision contributor Lauren Culpepper touched base with Tappin to find out how he ties his vision into his work and style to create a sweet signature sound all around the globe:
AAV: What did you like to do as a kid? Did you have any vision issues growing up?
As a kid living on the island of Barbados, we were always outdoors playing sports or going to the beach (riding Jet Skis was my favorite). I sucked at surfing… I never had a video game and the internet was not “invented” so all we did was play cricket, soccer, table tennis, etc., but my favorite was field hockey.
I had a library card and reading books once a week from the library was a lot easier on the eyes in a well-lit room than staring at a computer or a laptop much later in life, which (along with age) I guess is why I am due a pair of readers.
AAV: On Instagram, I've seen videos of you wearing sunglasses on planes. Are you naturally cautious to protect against UV damage?
Yes, and I’m always losing my shades so keeping them on helps me keep them a little longer.
But another reason is when I travel with my band, we play a prank of photographing each other sleeping and hashtag #everybodysleeps. Wearing the shades makes it harder for any of us to figure out who fell asleep first, but every now and again we may start to snore. And then we make a video!
AAV: As for performance, how do you approach styling your outfits with your eyewear so masterfully?
Over the decades, I have been able to acquire a large collection of saxophones, and, based on the occasion, I try to match the shades with the sax. Then, depending on the weather and location, I pick the blazer and pants. And finally the hat, belt and shoes.
If I wear a bow tie, I try to make sure they are not exactly, perfectly matched with a kerchief so they both pop. I shop for suits but try not to wear them like a suit. I mix and match.
AAV: With performances all around the world, you never miss a beat. Is it easier or harder to play the saxophone with your glasses?
If the sunglasses fit properly, it’s easy. Sometimes they don’t and they slip down my nose, so I make a mental note to get them fixed or retire them from the stage as I like to move around a lot, and they help with bright lights.
After a show, I try to take pictures with every fan, and with all the cameras flashing, it can be a challenge, so wearing sunglasses during that time is best.
AAV: Growing up in Barbados, were you more likely to wear your sunglasses than maybe some of your peers when you went off to college in Boston?
Good question. It was definitely a habit. But the type of sunglasses we wore were for the beach and I don’t think that style was popular in sunny Boston. Ha!
AAV: As you've gone through different stages of life, what advice would you give to others about taking care of their vision while pursuing their dreams of performing?
Get your eyes tested and don’t be afraid of the ophthalmoscopy — it’s a lot easier than a cleaning at the dentist. Step away from the devices a bit more. I need to do the same myself.
AAV: Has your vision changed over the years?
I need to wear reading glasses to read directions on the back of a medicine bottle but I can still read music on my iPad.
Whether you’re a global performance artist, an aspiring musician or an overall appreciator of the arts, it’s helpful to think about how vision plays a part in your daily life. To find the perfect glasses or sunglasses for your face shape and performance style, start by scheduling an exam with your eye doctor to make sure your glasses prescription is up to date.
NEED AN EYE EXAM? Find an eye doctor near you and make an appointment.
Page published in July 2020
Page updated in January 2022