Monday, September 15, 2014

Sax and Violence

I began playing the alto saxophone during my senior year in high school after six years of clarinet, and I fell in love with it.  I was fortunate to play in the jazz band that year, and we had a pretty good group of musicians.  My buddy, Kirk, was a fantastic guitar player (actually, he still is), and he also could play just about any instrument you put in his hands, including piano/keyboards and any of the woodwind instruments.  He was the type of player that could improve any band he played in.  We also had a good balance of other instruments, including Andre (trumpet & keyboards), Randy (bass), Giles (guitar), Joe (guitar), Wakene (alto & tenor sax), and Dom (drums).  Our band director also was a drummer, and played professionally in a jazz trio.  We had so much fun in that band class that year, and we wrote and performed several original compositions.  It was the most creative period of music of my life, and led me to believe that I might actually follow my dreams of pursuing a career in music.

The jazz band got to be pretty good, and we were fortunate to have ridden the coattails of the band from the year before, which was very solid with several very good musicians, and was a fan favorite.  Our band wasn't quite as good as that one, but when we performed, the audience's expectations were pretty high, and that filled us with confidence.  We played a number of shows over the course of that year, and my favorite was one we did for the kids at the nearby middle high school.  The kids were just blown away, and their excitement was higher than any other audience.  I'm sure that was my 15 minutes of fame.

After high school, I continued to play at church and at the University of Maryland, in the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band.  I also played with Kirk every so often, and we recorded a few more tunes.  Kirk had a four-track recorder, and it was fun to actually have recordings of what we played.  Kirk was a real talent, and I feel fortunate to have played with him.


However, who could guess that playing in the marching band could be so dangerous, or violent?  I remember, in my days in the band, we took a road trip we took to Syracuse University.  On the way, we stopped at a high school in western Maryland, where we performed a short show for the students there. We wore our white uniforms that day, and during a part of our pregame show called "block and mess", which required us to run very quickly and make a quick cut in the grass and reverse direction several times, I slipped and fell, and about ten other band mates fell with me, causing a massive pileup of bodies and instruments.  I jumped up as quickly as I could, got my bearings, and got back in line.  I looked down and I had a grass stain on my white pants the length of my leg.  It was a mess.  I was very embarrassed, knowing I had caused so many to fall down, and there was no way to hide the evidence given the huge grass stain.  I believe our band director called me out later, as well.  That was even worse.

I only played in the band for two years.  Given the number of hours required to be in the band, it just wasn't something I could keep up with.  In fact, that was around the time I decided that I didn't want to put in the work required to be a music major.  I wasn't having fun, which is why I wanted to play in the first place.  I discovered geography at around the same time, and that led to my career as a cartographer, which was a much more achievable career goal.  It was a little less violent, as well.  There were no grass stains in making maps.

Have a great evening, everyone!

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