Feedback from a Reader

If you haven’t read all the comments on this blog, then meet Howard, a midlife tenor sax player.    He’s been commenting recently, and  I thought his story was worth sharing.    Way to go Howard!

Howard said 1 month ago:

am interested in your husband’s journey with the saxophone. Two years ago, at age 54, I picked up a tenor and started taking lessons. Two of our daughters play trombone and clarinet, and we thought it would be fun for all of us to be able to play together.

I have been taking weekly lessons and practicing about one hour a day for two years. If I were thirteen, I would probably be very good. But at 56, my progress has been slow. I was aware at the beginning that I would only be able to improve up to a certain point. An older brain does not connect the synapses as quickly or as strongly as a younger one. And I am not sure that the tenor is a particularly easy instrument. Compliments from my own family are suspect, so I really don’t know how I sound. I have not played with a group, though my dream would be to play in a big band – no soloing – just play my part.

What has your experience been like?

You said 1 month ago:

Howard,

I’ll have Chuck respond. Thanks for the note.

Georgeann

Chuck said 1 month ago:

Howard,

It sounds like our experiences are fairly much the same. I picked up a tenor this past Summer and it is tougher to play than the alto. I spend a bit of time on both of them most evenings. My biggest downfall is just wanting to play and not practice. I have set two goals for the upcomming year, back into lessons (I suspended them in February because of family issues in Virginia) and find a group to play with. There are several community bands in SE Michigan, and the goal is to find one that gives me a chance to grow without being intimidating. The lessons have already been scheduled, now to make the phone call on the community group.

For me the bottom line is the fact I enjoy playing. I also keep remembering comments made by a pastor friend many years ago on the growth of a new church. “Inch by inch, small steps”. If I see a little improvement each week in my playing I’m happy.

Howard said today:

What an experience I had! There was an ad in the local weekly newspaper for a community band in a nearby town. So I went to the practice. There were about 40 people there, and I have no doubt every last one of the had more talent than me. They handed me 14 pages of music and away we went. I was, well, not particularly good. Although I have practiced faithfully over the last 28 months, I did not know how to play in a group. I immediately got lost in the rests, and spent most of the next two hours trying to find my place. There was another tenor sitting next to me, Roger. Roger has played tenor consistently for forty years and helped me as well as he could. He is an organizer of the band, and I am sure he was dubious as to whether I should be warming a seat there or not. But he’s a likeable sort, no airs at all, and very talented.

The band had been working on this music so they were fairly up to speed. It was for a childrens concert, so the time was, to say the least, bright (read: faster than I can sight read).

I got out of there at 9:00 PM bewildered and a little down. So I called my teacher. He was delighted and said it was the best thing I could be doing, I’ll be a better player for it, etc. etc.

Since Thursday night, I have practiced as much as my ambeture can stand. I’m still not happy with it and know this Thursday will be another tough night. But I have to think it will be better.

My wife and children are delighted. They could not be more encouraging. Of course, they hear me playing at my own speed in the den, not gasping out notes, desperately counting rests, and just hanging on for dear life.

After hearing my lament, my best fried told me Sunday, “oh, poor me, I’m such a failure, I can’t play saxaphone like Kenny G.”

So, what am I going to do? I’m going back, and I will practice like a demon (assuming demons do practice). I will keep going back until they change venues without telling me, or file a restraing order, or physically bar me from entering. I love playing this darned tenor. And if I can just get this monstrous pile of music down, it will be wonderful.

Thanks for your blog.

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Filed under Inspiration, Returning to Music

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