Band Class

As June ends we start to see many festivals and fairs opening up here in Edmonton, and this past week was the Edmonton Jazz Festival. I’ve been curious to go check it out for many years but I always happened to be busy, or out-of-town. Fortunately not this year! Tonight I will be checking out Terell Stafford play at the Yardbird Suite and I am so excited! Any reason to watch a live performance by talented people is always a great experience and Jazz music for me is the ultimate.

I love jazz music for many reasons as it has been a part of my life for many, many years. First of all, my father has great taste in music and I thank him so much for exposing me to those beautiful pieces of music cascading out of our stereos. On top of listening to great music, my father was involved in several bands that performed around the city for special occasions or festivals, unfortunately, I was quite young while this was going on so I never had a chance to appreciate listening to him perform.

As the years passed on, my father played less each year. Lucky for me, in my first year of Junior High School, he taught me how to play the Alto Saxophone. It was the summer before school started and I  joined the school band that following September! I caught on quickly and, as soon as our band’s first performance had come and gone, I was hooked. Our band was not very good, we were only 11-year-old kids but, when we played certain phrases that were in time and in tune it was just magical for me. The rush of playing in front of a crowd of people, the teamwork of each student and us occasionally playing our songs right, I found to be exhilarating . I had a new thirst to learn as much as I could about playing my instrument, but I was getting frustrated with the attitude of my peers in the class. Some thought of band class as a way to get an easy A, so no one practiced and the band as a whole never advanced. This was maddening to me so I ended up not playing the saxophone at all for about 2 years.

During the two years without playing my saxophone, I felt there was a big hole in my life and decided to enroll once again into the band class at my new High School. Hopefully, this time around, the students in the High School Band would be a little more passionate about playing their instruments and I may be able to quench the thirst for knowledge that I had for the past few years. In the first year it really opened my eyes to see what it was like playing in a proper band. It was a bit smaller than I expected but for the most part each musician understood how to play their instrument properly and we conquered a lot in the times spent practicing.

The second year we had a new conductor and several more people enrolled in the class; I was absolutely delighted by our potential! Our new conductor was even more passionate about music than our previous one and because of this new mentor I believe we acquired a great amount of skill as well as a love for the music we played. We were passionate about what we were accomplishing and practicing together day after day created strong friendships among us. I loved the whole experience and decided to stick with it performing with the Concert Band and the Jazz Band for the rest of my High School years as well as the next year after I graduated.

Once I ended my experience with my High School Band I tried to continue my saxophone playing by performing at weddings, volunteering at hospitals, etc. That lasted for a few years but lately I’ve been busy trying to figure out what to do with my life and I haven’t been playing as much, if at all. So now when I watch musicians perform I have very strong mixed feelings. It makes me so happy to hear someone’s hard work paying off in magnificently complex and beautiful sounds. But, at the same time it makes me quite sad as I really do miss my band class days…that feeling of exhilaration, hyperactivity and a unadulterated high in the hours leading up to a major performance.

As you can see my love for music runs deep and with this theme of music I think Herman Leonard’s photograph of Sonny Stitt above is quite fitting.

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