Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT alumna breaks into Austin’s music scene with local band Big Wy’s, solo project

Charlie Partheymuller
Renuka Jayasinghe, saxophonist and University of Texas alumna, stands for a portrait in front of The Continental Club where she use to hold a residency on Feb. 9, 2024.

When alumna Renuka Jayasinghe came to UT as a physics major, she realized her true calling: music. She joined the UT Jazz Ensemble as a saxophonist in her sophomore year and decided to switch her major from physics to jazz performance. Despite her parents pushing her to go into STEM, Jayasinghe felt a bigger passion for music.

“I (felt) so lit up inside,” Jayasinghe said. “(I thought), ‘This is my calling, this is what I want to do with my life.’ I told my parents, ‘Guys, I love you, but I have to live my own life.’” 

Now Jayasinghe plays saxophone for local Big Wy’s Brass Band. Big Wy’s celebrated its tenth anniversary by releasing the title track for the upcoming album, “Built to Last,” on Jan. 26. Jayasinghe performed two shows with the band as a guest saxophonist in 2020 and 2021 before joining as a permanent member. Jayasinghe said she initially felt nervous about joining.

“The music industry is very male-dominated,” Jayasinghe said. “I joined (Big Wy’s) and I was the only girl in this (band) with eight dudes. I showed (them) that I can do anything they could do and they were like, ‘Hell yeah, let’s bring her on.’”

William Wright, UT orchestral trombone alumnus and member of the band, said Jayasinghe serves as a reminder of the next generation of musicians. 

“She brings an energy, both femininely and musically, that we’ve never had in the band before,” Wright said. “It’s inspiring to look around the room (of band members) and see some of Austin’s most requested musicians and remember that they all chose to be here.”

Wyatt Corder, UT advertising alumnus and namesake of the band, said Jayasinghe joining Big Wy’s led to her securing gigs elsewhere. Corder said he saw Jayasinghe play her first solo show at Hole in the Wall last year.

“You know it’s a good song when it translates in an acoustic setting as well as in a live band setting,” Corder said. “I’m excited to hear more Renu solo music.”

Renu, Jayasinghe’s solo project, incorporates vocals, saxophone, flute and clarinet. Jayasinghe said she wants to take control of her career and explore creativity with Renu.

“I’ve been playing with other people for so long,” Jayasinghe said. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I want to have my own project.”

Alongside Renu, Jayasinghe works on building a vintage resale business, Toadzilla Thrift Inventory. She said her interest in vintage clothes intersects with her music career when she plans the outfits for Big Wy’s gigs. 

“The pieces I find are great for performing a show and will glow in the spotlight,” Jayasinghe said.

Following her solo ventures, Jayasinghe said she plans to stick with Big Wy’s.

“Big Wy’s (has) always been my rock,” Jayasinghe said. “They’ve all become my best friends and they believed in me when I was still finding myself. (Their encouragement) helped me get on my own feet and make a career for myself.”

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