On Monday I have my first saxophone lesson after a 52-year hiatus. Kudos to my college friend, Lynn Mooney Hickey, for inspiring me to take up sax again. Lynn began playing clarinet at age forty-nine and she’s added tenor and alto sax. She plays in community concert and dance bands, as well as Dixieland and swing groups. Her music has become her passion and that’s reminded me that music was a big part of my high school life.
I sat second chair alto sax in my high school concert and advanced bands and was a squad leader in the marching band. The classmates I stayed in touch with for over 50 years were all band members. (And men. Analyze that.) The joy Lynn found by being involved with bands later in life got me thinking about relearning my instrument. This has turned out to be a bigger challenge than I anticipated.
My first step was to procure a saxophone. Within the obvious overall question of rent vs. purchase there were subsets. If rent, should I look for rent-to-buy? If so, I’d need to research the brand I’d be renting. If purchase, would a student model serve me well or should I look for a better one? How about used, since on my retiree’s income, “better” would certainly mean used? If this is getting confusing, thank you for paying attention, and I’ve diagrammed it for you.
I decided my best option was to rent until I know if this Fascination has legs. The Internet turned up a local business that does rent-to-buy, plus they offer lessons. “It’s So Easy; piece of cake,” said I. As if. That studio insists on getting your social security number before they’ll rent to you. It’s the policy of the national firm they use. No matter that requiring an SSN is illegal. Frustrated and annoyed, I left with Nothing but A Heartache. A follow up call to the rental headquarters just made me Crazy.
Despite (or perhaps because of) my fond recollections of the boys in the band, there’s no way I’m giving out my social to a shop full of musicians. A friend of Jagdish (my husband) knows a lot about musical instruments of every shape and tone. He was sure I could buy a sax inexpensively through Craig’s list. That suggestion turned up two affordable ones at brick-and-mortar stores. Only one was open on Saturdays in the summer, so I started there.
Turns out it’s a pawn shop, and no one there could help me assess the sax’s quality. The only sound I was able to make with it was that of air escaping from somewhere. Since I couldn’t be sure if the problem was with me, and perhaps therefore not one that will disappear with lessons, I left that shop empty handed, too.
The next week I visited the other store from Craig’s list. It’s much like the very first place I’d gone, that meaning they also rent inexpensively and offer lessons. They use a different source for their rentals, so they didn’t insist on getting my SSN. All I had to do was leave Jagdish as collateral. (Just kidding, but I would have seriously considered it at that point.) Unfortunately, this studio is about three times the drive as the first one. I’m beginning to remember the sacrifices one makes for ones art. I signed a rental contract.
I have no idea what brand of horn I’ll be getting when I show up on Monday. But if you can follow my chart, you’ll know it doesn’t matter, because this shop doesn’t do rent-to-own. As it turns out, this is just as well, because the box on my chart that reads “Pray for windfall” turns out to be not so far fetched after all.
After posting about this plan on my Facebook page, I received a message from one of my high school band friends who now lives in Spokane, Washington. I had convinced him to come back to New Jersey last year for our belated 50th reunion, which I helped run. He and his wife had a wonderful time with all the other band alums and spouses, and they were glad I talked them into making the trip. They sent me a beautiful bouquet after the event.
That alone was an unexpected and thoughtful gesture. His FB message was extraordinarily generous. He'd played clarinet in high school, but he ventured into alto saxophone later in life. He has since decided it’s not for him and he offered to send me his sax as a gift if I decide to continue on this journey. That’s a powerful incentive for me to “stay tuned” to the process. Beware: dreadful puns and musical jokes ahead.