Evan Tate's SaxTips eZine

Sunday, March 06, 2005

"Tales from the Crypt"

This week’s issue is NOT about the old television horror program that played in the 70’s (although it may still run now, and I imagine many of you are too young to have even heard of this program. Whatever.), but it is another story about my early experiences as a young musician. I often feel that these are “horror stories” in their own right, but I find that they are also useful as I think back on these experiences.

Like (or unlike) many saxophonists today, I started as a saxophonist, and not as a clarinetist that later switched to saxophone. In fact, I avoided playing clarinet for the longest time. Although my middle school band teacher tried to encourage me to learn clarinet – I listened to my schoolmates play it and, of course, they sounded terrible – I didn’t listen to him, and the clarinet and I were like a string of garlic and Dracula.

In High School I picked up the flute and learned to play that with a lot of dedication. I even considered playing oboe, but I was told that there were too many oboists in the school already and not enough instruments to go around. Anyway, my mother advised that I stay away from oboe due to the massive pressure to one’s head.

By the time I got to college I had to finally face the fact that clarinet was going to become a part of my life (at least a small part, if any). I finally bought one. I forgot which brand it was. The next day, a colleague of mine called me up and told me that a High School in Brooklyn was putting on a student production of the musical “West Side Story”. The organizers of the production were looking for college music majors to form the orchestra. I asked him, “What do I need?” He said; “Your alto sax, flute and CLARINET.” I thought, “Cool. So I can start using this thing and get a return on my investment.” I told him that I was up for the gig.

“West Side Story” is a beautiful musical. A beautiful piece of work. I had no idea how difficult, or should I say “musically challenging” it was.

Since the production was low budget (almost all budgets are), the musicians had to “double-up” on books. What do I mean? Well, I played the first reed book, AND the second reed book. I had to play music for two musicians! I had to figure out which were the most important cues to play, and play them regardless of which book they were in. the whole band played this way.

On top of that, the clarinet parts were not for someone who was just learning to play clarinet. The most challenging part was the “Rumble Scene”. It is like a very modern classical work and the clarinet is VERY exposed. No chance to cover up anything here.

Believe it or not, I learned to play clarinet playing that musical. I “shedded” clarinet for hours a day. Mainly practicing the music to “West Side Story”.

Lesson here? When an experienced musician or teacher wants to give you some advice, listen to it. Even if at that moment you didn’t think it was the coolest thing, take heed. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress in the future.

Have fun!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.
http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de


Post a Comment

<< Home