“I played the wrong, wrong notes.” ~ Thelonious Monk
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In the Clouds
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I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me – like food or water. ~ Ray Charles
In 2002, when I was returning to music after a 30-year hiatus, I used the Community Band and Orchestra Contact list to identify the many, many community bands in the Seattle and surrounding area.
Most of the community bands at the time had either no Web presence, or a limited Web page that basically gave you a phone number or e-mail to contact. I had no idea what the bands played and who they wanted to attract, let alone the audition requirements, if any.
So I picked the Woodinville band and jazz ensemble because it also had a jazz band. At the time it was directed by a phenomenal sax performer and former high school band director, Ray Guyll. When I called the membership phone number, Terri answered.
Hi, I’m thinking about joining a community band.
That’s great, what instrument do you play?
Sax. How do I audition?
Do you own an instrument?
Just show up for practice.
That year we did a very jazzy season finale concert with Greta Matassa and her combo, Eric Kloss saxophonist extraordinaire, and both the concert band and jazz ensemble at the Kirkland Performance Center. I purchased tickets for my extended family and friends. The concert was the best concert band concert I have ever been in yet and I even had a short solo in the beginning of ‘Blue Ridge Autumn’.
Here is an excellent sample of what this band has grown up to be under the direction of our current director, Leah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKUHUxo7ZhM
Since I joined this band, I have made it a point to hear and/or sit in with a lot of the other local community bands. I have yet to find one that I enjoy as much as the WCB. The Woodinville Community Band has musicians from Jr. High age to players in their 80s. There are all levels of accomplishment, but most sections have a music major or two to hold the section down and teach the newbies.
Selecting a community band and making the decision whether to return to music performance is fraught with lots of decisions to make. Do I take lessons to get back in shape? Can I devote the time necessary to do a good job? Would I be a valuable asset to the band? Whatever you do, consider supporting your local band with attendance and donations. They will really appreciate it.
I got this Orsi sax-shaped clarinet bell mostly to tease my clarinet friends. They have the last laugh though, as I have not made as much progress learning the instrument as I had hoped.
I purchased this mic for Suzy to help her with some clarinet solos. It’s amazing and I use it with my bari when I sit next to it as it picks up the bari when I lean towards it on really loud charts. The first time that happened, I didn’t realize I was getting some mic benefit but people in the sax section were saying, “Wow, you sounded great tonight.” or “I could really hear you tonight.”
The AMT WS is Applied Microphone Technology’s flagship double microphone system for Clarinet. Designed, manufactured by hand, and distributed by AMT in the USA. The system is intended to clip onto standard Bb Clarinet’s.
The WS is the # 1 choice for top professionals that look for the most natural sound reproduction possible from a clip on microphone. All versions of the LS now include updated features including D.C.T. (Disconnect Cable Technology) with the ability to connect the Wi5IIC creating a belt pack free wireless system.
Mostly, this post is for my use when I lend the microphone or to make recommendations to friends.
Goodbye Mr. Spock, aka Leonard Nimoy. The New York Times sez,
Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.
So many of us baby boomers grew up in the Star Trek years. We watched the TV shows and the movies. We talked about the political and social meanings of some of the shows. Nimoy’s creation of the Live Long and Prosper greeting, now an iconic attribute of the show, was “fascinating”.
There are so many good videos from our man Spock on YouTube, et. Al. One of my favorites was done in this decade and just makes me laugh was the Lazy Song.
Suzy and I were lucky enough to see Vincent. Leonard Nimoy stared in this critically lauded one-man performance that revealed Vincent van Gogh as few knew him. Based on more than 500 letters exchanged between van Gogh and his brother Theo, the play examines the passion and torment of the extraordinary artist’s life and death as seen through his brother’s eyes. As van Gogh’s paintings are projected in the background, Nimoy becomes both Theo van Gogh and Vincent in this compelling, touching portrayal. It was a stunningly moving play.
Interestingly enough, Mr. Nimoy did a number of poorly received music performances. I remember his song about the Hobbits. That said I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Star Trek portrayal of Spock’s Death. “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most … human.” ~ Captain Kirk. It is hard to watch right now without getting emotional. Live Long and Prosper.
“If I were to begin life again, I would devote it to music. It is the only cheap and unpunished rapture upon earth.” ~ Sydney Smith
Baby boomers are retiring in very large numbers. They are selecting hobbies that are based on their experience and dreams. So where the jocks from high school won’t be playing tackle football, the bandees (not in any dictionary I know but it’s what kids in band called themselves) are returning back to music in a big way.
I played alto sax from 4th grade till my first year in college. Then I took a ~30 year break to spend more time on my career and family. When I returned to music performance, my kids were out on their own—Suzy and I were empty nesters.
I bought my dream sax, a Couf Superba I alto sax from a friend of mine who ran the world famous Quinn the Eskimo Vintage Horns. He actually let me try it out for almost a year before I paid for it. I started on lessons for the first time in my life because I quickly discovered that even though I was a constant soloist in high school band, even a section leader, I really didn’t sight read music very well. Eventually I picked up a Couf tenor sax too.
After about five months of lessons, I researched community bands in the Seattle area. I selected one that had an adjunct jazz band and called for an audition. The conversation went like this:
Me: I’d like to audition for your band.
Membership coordinator: Do you have an instrument.
MC: We practice at …
I was in! Nervous and yet still excited I showed up and found a row of 6 alto, 3 tenor, and no bari sax players. Many of the musicians were high school kids who really like the director. The group was fun and there were *lots* of people who played with other bands.
The jazz band was packed, but they let me in because I had my son’s bari sax from high school. After the first practice with them, the bari sax player who preceded me said that he was going to let me have the chair because he really had too much going on.
I met a lot of music instructors, semi-pro musicians, and other music industry types. Joining this community band put me on the fast track for networking. After two years with the band I started up what is now, eleven years later, the Microsoft Jumpin’ Jive Orchestra (MJJO). It is a vintage swing band with stellar musicians and some unique charts, some from the composers, Frank Foster’s own collection.
During my first 13+ years back with music I did a lot of things that I have never done before:
- Learned to play soprillo, sopranino, soprano, F mezzo, C melody, tenor, bari, and bass sax. Voicing so many instruments was quite the challenge.
- Learned to play soprano, alto, bass, contra-alto, and contrabass clarinet.
- Dabbled with flutes
- Transcribed solos, quartets, and merged different parts of music into one part.
- Run a band.
- Be a board member on a community band.
- Play in a professional theater pit (three times)!
- Play solos in front of a semi-pro concert band and big band.
- Become the chief admin on the largest sax forum in the world: Sax on the Web.
- Become an admin/co-founder of the Woodwind Forum.
- Travel nation-wide three times (Vegas, New Orleans, & Boston) to perform with National Community Band on tenor, alto, and bari sax.
- Visit the NAMM convention and blog about it here.
And still I have more items on my bucket list like doing a cruise gig, playing with nationally famous people in front of my band, and more. I have given you some clues that will help you set up your play book based on your interests and talents.
I would like to share two things jump out at me about my adventure. One, after a normal 90 minute practice session with an ensemble, it still feels like it was only 5 minutes and I can’t believe how fast time went. The people you meet for the most part are so wonderful, talented and life affirming that it is hard to imagine my life without them. Here’s hoping that this blog post will give you some idea to get you closer to your musical goals. Remember, it never about the destination, it’s all about the journey.