analogwatch: (quote from yamaha ad in WGI FOCUS mag)
[personal profile] analogwatch
What does it mean to play tenor saxophone?

I've asked myself the question many times. Why do I continue to play this instrument that has been forced upon me, even though I despised it, hated it, loathed it for so long?

To be brief and frank, it grew on me.

But do I want to be that brief? Do I really want to be that frank? I pondered the question. That answer is no. No, I don't want to be that brief, that frank, that... undescriptive.

So I thought about it. What does it actually mean to play this tenor saxophone? To breathe life into this construct of brass and simple metal? To give this instrument with its lovely ivory keys a soul? To cause that reed to vibrate with its beautiful voice, different with every cut, every style?

I thought about it long, and I thought about it hard. I realized that to know why I play it, I'd have to understand how I've gotten to where I am musically. I originally did play it, yes, because I had been forced to. It came in the mail, I carted it to school with me in fourth grade only to be told that I was too small for it, that I'd have to play the alto saxophone.

I fell in love with it almost immediately. It was so small, so... so cute. I loved its soul, its sultry sound... and I especially loved the fact that I excelled. If I did play a wrong note, my band director would say, "That's all right, Erin. You'll get it next time." And I'd smile up at Mr. Stolper and say, "Okay." I truly believed him. He was the first person to actually make me believe I'd get something right if I didn't get it the first time. All of my teachers, both of my parents, all the adults I knew thought that since I was so "bright," so "gifted," that if I didn't get something down the very first time, I'd never get it. Smart kids can only do what they can do right the first time, right?

No, no. That can't be right. How can that be right if humans are expect to grow, to change? I was baffled by the fact that someone believed in me, someone encouraged me. Mr. Stolper helped me so much with that, and I'll always be grateful.

I moved onto concert band my fifth grade year, and quickly became first chair alto saxophone. I'd never been "the best" at anything that wasn't academic, so this was an entirely new experience. I was proud of myself. My parents were proud of me. I made it into the honor band, and I was rewarded. I was happier than I'd ever been.

Sixth grade comes. I'm still first chair, but there's no honor band this year. I don't mind; that means I don't have to be at school an hour early every other day. I was still rewarded, my parents were still proud. I worked hard on practicing my saxophone. The first time I'd ever blown my chops out was in sixth grade. It hurt, and it was on the day of a concert, and I quickly learned that you do not practice after school on the day of a concert if you want to sound good that night.

Elementary school ends. I no longer have a school alto to borrow, and no amount of begging my parents will allot me an alto to rent. I tore my closet apart, searching for that accursed tenor saxophone. I found it, buried at the very back. We had to take it in to get repadded, and I heard my parents complaining about how it cost $200 to get it done. I felt bad. I knew money was tight, and yet I was insisting on continuing with music, and I had cost them $200. They insisted that it was okay, that I needed to do music. I thought, "all right, they want me to do it, so it must be okay." I spent the whole summer relearning amouchures, relearning how to play low notes, and just generally teaching myself to become accustomed to its size.

I go into seventh grade, and I had to get used to band being an actual class. I was put into one of the seventh grade bands, and was quickly moved up into the concert band. I became first chair again, over the eighth grader that had already been in that band. He seemed really angry, having a seventh grade girl come waltzing into the class he'd already been in and beat him out. I didn't mind.

Eighth grade, I was the only tenor saxophone. I produced enough sound for two or more tenors easily, so I suppose that's why.

I decided I didn't want to do marching band my ninth grade year. For the first time, I truly disappointed my family. I felt horrible. In one of my second semester classes, I met two band members (one of whom I later dated) and hearing what they told me, I realized my mistake, and signed up for band for my sophomore year.

Sophomore year comes. I get made fun of for being a rookie in band, but I don't really care. I do the business, and discover that the fact that I'd never had private lessons and took a year off severely hurt my playing ability. I had to readjust to many things, not knowing how to sight-read being one of them. That was forced upon me, and I tried so hard to excel. I never did that year... I was last chair. I was extremely disappointed in myself; I'd never let myself down like that before.

Our band director left after that year, and we had a first-year director. We all had many changes to make, new things to become adjusted to. I applied for section leader, and did not get it. I adjusted, like everyone else. I did my best, but found that just like the previous year, I could not excel on tenor. So, I switched to baritone saxophone for the concert season. I found something I could excel at once again, and I made it into the Wind Ensemble, the top band. I was proud of myself, my father was proud of me, and I felt I had once again found my niche. I was happy.

That band director left after that year, too. We got another director. This was to be her sixth year teaching band, and she had come from Michigan. I once again applied for section leader, getting it this time. I failed in many, many aspects of being a section leader. If I could go back, I would do things very differently, but I had a lot of things going wrong around me, as bad of an excuse as that is. But I digress. I excelled as a musician during marching band -- I was the only tenor saxophone who could play the entire show properly beginning to end, and I was proud of myself for it. I was the one that taught the section what to do, I was the one that helped THEM excel, in turn. It was the best feeling in the world. At the end of marching band, we had auditions for the top band, no longer called Wind Ensemble, but rather "Symphonic Band" now. I made it, as second chair, on tenor saxophone. I had proved my talent to myself again, proven that I could, in fact, play tenor saxophone well enough to make it into an ensemble purely by my talent on that instrument. It felt good.

So, why do I play the saxophone? It's simply become a part of me. For that year when I did not play it, I felt... lost. Like a part of me was gone. I joined the band my sophomore year, and that very same year, I started going out with one of those boys I met in my freshman class, and when he broke up with me this year, music was one of the things that kept me going on. It kept me from focusing on the loss, and made me keep my mind on making the music better, making the music heal my soul.

And it did. How can I give up something so wonderful, so magical? I may do art, I may do drama, I may sing, and I may do winter guard, but none of those could ever make me give up on my saxophone.

I mean, really. You can't give up on an instrument after you've named the darn thing. His name is Trevor now, he's my baby. I'm going to do research on ASU's band... I don't think I've missed their Freshman orientation yet. I can't give up on marching band, not yet. No way.

I will persevere, for my sake. For Trevor's sake... since I don't think he'd like to sit in my closet until I either join a band or force my child to play him. Hopefully, that child will grow to love him just as much as I have.

Date: 2004-05-11 07:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruleroftheworld.livejournal.com
I thought that was really...wow.

Amazing. Inspiring, even. You have such dedication and passion towards your instrument and your music.

I, too, feel that music is an integral part of my life. I feel empty when I don't have it. It's become a part of who I am. The alto girl. The only alto girl.

Hahahah represent.

That's all I have to say. Rock on, keep on doing what you love.

(no more sugar for me tonight :P)

Date: 2004-05-12 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] analogwatch.livejournal.com
I'm the only girl sax, period. In all three of the bands in the school. It's sad. :(

and I'm glad my essay inspired you. :)

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Erin

December 2011

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