There is a video circulating on YouTube from the 2014 North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) Biennial conference that features Dr. Fred Hemke, Dr. Eugene Rousseau, and Dr. Steven Mauk. It was a panel discussion that was moderated by conference host Debra Richtmeyer, in which she asked them questions about the state of saxophone pedagogy in the United States, as well as how they came to find the saxophone as their musical voice. After viewing the video, it caused me to think about how I decided on the saxophone for my own musical path–a story which I will share here.
I first started playing the saxophone when I was eight years old. In my elementary school, following the conclusion of the third grade, students were allowed to begin studying an instrument to play in the band. As a youngster, I had no idea what I wanted to play, but I knew that I wanted to participate in band because some of my friends were going to do it. I asked my mother what I should do, and she said that I should play saxophone because she liked how it sounded. That’s all it took. I started playing a few weeks later during summer lessons, and was an able participant in the elementary band in the fall.
I continued to play saxophone throughout elementary, middle, and high school, participating in the concert band, jazz band, and marching band. In high school, I became very serious about studying music in college, so I began taking private lessons. In 1997 I entered SUNY Fredonia to study music education, with the intent of becoming a band director. I began studying with Dr. Laurence Wyman and I loved all of my classes. In the spring of 1999, Dr. Wyman informed his studio that the Rascher Saxophone Quartet was coming to Fredonia that summer to give a week-long workshop, and that we should all consider attending. Little did I know that this would be an experience that would completely change the course of my life. At this workshop, I heard sounds that I had never heard before from a saxophone, as well as a tone quality that is still ringing in my ears. I knew from then on that this is what I wanted to do with my life–to play saxophone as these four amazing artists were. It was also at this workshop that I was to meet a man with whom I would later study and learn from–Dr. Lawrence Gwozdz.
One year later, I met the other individual who would transform my playing and my whole mode of thinking about the saxophone: Dr. Wildy Zumwalt. I was immediately captivated by his tone quality and musicianship, and I was very excited that he would be my teacher when Dr. Wyman retired in 2000.
These three individuals (6 if you count all of the members of the RSQ), have influenced me to be the saxophonist and musician that I am today. I cannot imagine what I would be doing with my life had I not heard the saxophone played as they play it. I thank them everyday for the gifts they shared with me, and I hope to continue the tradition going.