Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Having a private instructor makes me feel rich

Until recently, I had never had a private saxophone lesson in my life.

I learned to play as a fourth-grader at Mapledale Elementary School in a group setting with other beginning saxophonists (NOTE: The late Men at Work multi-instrumentalist Greg Ham used to pronounce that word, perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, as sax-OPH-oh-nists, which I just love. I will never say it another way.)

We would squeak and squawk our way through 30-minute lessons with the wonderful Mr. Chuck Baker, a saint of a man who taught elementary and middle school music and band. He is/was a clarinetist by trade but, like most music educators, could work his way around just about any instrument.

That was the extent of my formal training. Whatever else I've learned on the sax over 40 years of playing came on the job during wind ensemble and jazz band rehearsals.

Until now. Now I pay an amazing professional saxophonist named Ed Michaels the criminally low fee of $15 a week to give me lessons every Monday at 5:30pm via Google Duo.

We just started a few weeks ago and already Ed is putting me through my paces. I'm playing scales and etudes, familiarizing myself with the Circle of Fourths (which I should have known about years ago), and even learning the right way to play certain notes on the horn.

Mr. Baker, for example, taught me to play B-flat the way I believe a clarinet player does, pressing down the first finger on each hand. This is at best an alternate way of playing it on sax, and Ed is pushing me to learn the right way, which means undoing years and years of doing it the wrong way.

This is not easy at any stage of life, but maybe particularly so at age 51. But I'm getting through it.

Anyway, the point is, I have Ed, a formally trained expert on the instrument, teaching me. There is something about that arrangement I find to be very cool.

Like I'm Louis XIV having the court musician teaching me the tricks of his trade. Except I lack the power to order Ed to the guillotine.

Not that I would want to. He is a wonderfully nice and patient man who loves the sax and clearly enjoys teaching it to others.

Which is good, because that B-flat thing is giving me troubles. When I get it right, I fully expect him to give me a smiley face sticker in recognition of my accomplishment.

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