Berklee Professor Brings Soul Music to Life

By Nick Balkin
December 23, 2020

Tia Fuller talks about playing saxophone in Pixar’s new film, Soul, for the character of Dorothea Williams, voiced by Angela Bassett.

Tia Fuller has toured the world in Beyoncé’s band, performed a concert for President Barack Obama at the White House, and appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Oprah, and at the Grammy Awards. But the Berklee professor says that none of that made her as nervous as playing for her latest gig.

Fuller is the saxophonist behind the music of Dorothea Willams, a character in Pixar’s new film, Soul. The character, voiced by the legendary actress Angela Bassett, is a renowned musician who leads a jazz quartet. The film, which also stars Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, and Daveed Diggs, tells the story of a band teacher who becomes separated from his body, then finds himself in the Great Before, a world where souls get their personalities before coming to Earth.

Soul will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ starting Friday, December 25. We recently talked to Fuller about her role in the new film. Edited excerpts from the conversion are below.

How did you get this gig?

I received a call that Pixar was looking for a woman to play the saxophone for the animated movie that was coming out. I then spoke to the director at Pixar about details, and she told me that this character is a Black woman who is a “powerhouse” and top jazz saxophonist in New York that every musician wants to play with.

I had another performance that I had committed to at Princeton University the same weekend of the Pixar taping. But, luckily, I was able to switch it around (thanks for your flexibility, Rudresh Mahanthappa).

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