If you speak to many non musicians, they will say “I wish I took music lessons when I was a kid”. There are many reasons for not doing so, diverse interests like sports, the sciences, clothes designing, anything…… or maybe the opposite, just lack of motivation. On the other hand, what are the other motivations that drive people to take on such a daunting quest? Wow, that sounds ominous! But also can be a life long labor of love.
I can’t quite explain why that love bug infected me, but here is my personal story and my lifelong journey of music:
It was February, 1961, just short of my 14th birthday. I was home alone on a Saturday afternoon with “American Bandstand” playing on a black and white console television. Suddenly I heard “Harlem Nocturne”, ran into the living room and though no one else was present, I pointed to the profile of a sax player performing and said out loud “I have to make that sound!” It was an overwhelming feeling that engulfed me.
When my parents came home a couple of hours later, knowing that they had limited extra funds above the essentials, I did run it by them about my interest in learning the saxophone. Of course they had to talk about it so I did not press the issue as much as I would have loved to do so. You know, like a three year old whining for a toy at”Toys r Us”. Well two months passed when they walked into the house with a case in hand saying “Here’s your saxophone.”
A little side note: My father played the sax when he was a young man in the 1920’s or 30’s. He didn’t remember that much but just enough to put it together and show me the most basic fingerings. And oh yes, he never told me this prior to me showing an interest in the sax. How eery was that? Was it genetics or what?
Anyway, to show you how impactful starting the saxophone was, 57 years later I still remember May 1, 1961 when I had my very first lesson, the musty smell of the case my used “Conn naked lady alto” came in, and the excitement pervading my being. But wait, there’s more.
That fall, more precisely, Thanksgiving, I joined the high school band in time to participate in the Christmas concert. After my first full year of playing I knew that music would be my career. Back then, even though I could play as well as my fellow students in band, they still had three years more experience than me. Of course one of the first solos I ever played was “Harlem Nocturne”. I continued by going to Berklee in Boston, spent three years in the US Army Band, followed by teaching music in public schools for thirty years. But it didn’t end there.
After retiring from teaching, I sat down and published The Yankee Collection (an elementary band supplement). All the while for those many years I continued to perform in varied bands and pit orchestras.(Along the way I also became proficient on clarinet, flute, oboe, piccolo, and fife.) It was then that I realized my true passion was performing. Now we are getting close to present day. About five years ago I started to do a solo act with iTunes back-up.
You’ll never guess what song I had to re-learn. Unfortunately there appeared to be no good back-up versions until two weeks ago. I decided to research my inspirational song one more time and hit pay dirt. Finally,….. here it comes……. after fifty seven years, my career had come full circle and I’m playing “Harlem Nocturne” with all the sexy nuances found in the epilogs of every episode of “Mike Hammer” back in the 60’s.
I have no idea what motivates others to play musical instruments and mine is just one of many success stories I’m sure. So follow your gut, it can be a life long fruitful journey! If you have the desire, go for it. You never know what’s just around the corner!