Monday, 25 June 2012

A university-trained, bass-playing saxophone player...

I guess before we really get into this blogger/audience relationship I should tell you a bit about myself. Well, about my musical self at least.

I clearly remember the first time I could play a melody and recognize it. The feeling that it was ME that created the music I heard was addictive. It's that love of creating that led me to pursue a music career professionally. I received my Bachelor of Music / Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1987, with a major in saxophone. That first melody I played was on a clarinet way back when I was in Grade 5. When I switched to saxophone in Grade 7, I initially played the baritone sax. As I got more serious about entering university, I moved to tenor and then alto. That switch made me miss playing all the low parts of the band, so I bought a bass guitar and have been playing that for almost 30 years as well.

What musical roads does a university-trained bass-playing saxophone player follow? Plenty of them. I've played both sax and bass in small jazz combos, full sized jazz bands, rock bands and concert bands. I've even sat in with an orchestra playing some Gershwin. I've sung in a few choirs, and routinely sing harmony vocals in any rock band I've been in. I've written for jazz bands, concert bands, and choirs, and I've programmed some mixes on the computer. I teach music to Junior High and High School students and direct several bands now. I like to think my range is wide.

Please understand that I'm not saying this list of things in a bragging way. In fact, you might be asking if it means I'm good at lots of things but not great at any of them! That may be so, but I think there's a lot of perspective that can be gained from my approach. I know too many classically trained musicians who frown on rock music because of its simplicity from a harmonic or melodic standpoint. I know jazz musicians who think everything except jazz is unworthy of their attention. I know rock musicians who won't even try to listen to anything else. I think they're all wrong. Every style has its own strengths. Being closed-minded about a style of music is just plain wrong.

Let me quickly go back to the word "perspective". Think quickly about your favourite song or composition. Got it in your head? There's somebody else somewhere in the world who loves that song as much as you, and I don't mean just the writer. Every piece of music has fans. Think about a piece of music you don't like. Maybe it's one of those songs people make fun of, or it's something your parents liked and made you listen to when you were younger. Maybe it's something your kids like today. There's somebody else somewhere in the world who loves that song. As much as you think it's stupid, they love it (even if it is just the writer). Who's right about the song? Both of you. Our opinion is our own. Love it, hate it, feel indifferent about it, whatever. Just don't start trying to figure out if it's a good song or a bad song. There's no such thing, as long as somebody out there thinks the song is worthy. Musical beauty really is in the ear of the beholder.

Don't worry, I'll get around to telling you what compositions and bands I like soon enough. But for now, stop reading and go listen to something you like. I'll be back.

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