Guide to Late Bloomers ~ Returning to Music Performance

“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.

CoufTwins2_smI 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.

Me: Yes.

MC: We practice at …

WCBI 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.

SaxPeepsAnd 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.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Band, Guides, MJJO, Music, My World, WCB and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Guide to Late Bloomers ~ Returning to Music Performance

  1. From Paul Butterfield to J.S. Bach the joy of playing music with other people is a gift from God.

  2. Keith C. Edwards says:

    Nothing like it.

  3. Gandalfe says:

    Curt, interesting link to your name. Hope you carry your harmonicas wherever you go.

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