Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sax Appeal — Not Yet Ready for Carnegie Hall

I had my second sax lesson last Monday and I was pleased with the progress I had made. I don’t expect to be able to make the same report about my next lesson. The past six days have made me realize that scheduling ones activities in retirement is not any easier than scheduling them when working full time. Who would have thought?

We made a four-day trip to Vermont this week to spend time with my sister. This was decided on months ago. A one-day shift in the timing due to some change of plans on my sister’s end enabled me to keep my Monday lesson. I brought my saxophone with me to Vermont, but I practiced there only once, and briefly. The four days away were bracketed by two days of unanticipated family visits by in-laws. I got no practicing in on those days.

As I write this, it’s Saturday night and I’ve run out of steam. For those of you who have been able to follow this week's saga (and were interested enough to try), that means I’ve practiced about one half hour in the five days and six nights since my last lesson. That leaves me just a day and a half to catch up. The odds are not in my favor.

What’s worse is that my last lesson was on chromatics. Even the most popular sharps and flats use many of those side keys that challenge my stubby, arthritic hands. They’re also the notes for which I’ve completely forgotten the fingering. It’s like starting anew each time I pick up the instrument.

My inner niggler is telling me that I should be practicing right now. Another niggler is reminding me that this week’s blog will be at least a day late again even if I finish the draft now. Then there’s the iCal on my desktop Mac (on which I’m working). It has reminded me three times that my monthly newspaper column is due in two days, along with the bi-monthly news article for the Class Notes section in the Brown Alumni Magazine. I’m the Communications Chair for my class, so that task falls to me.

You can see where this is headed. I’m spending my Saturday night triaging the demands on my time. I want to ensure that no “patients” die on me if I give my sax extra hours before my Monday lesson. All the while my mind is replaying the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” I know I need to practice more even to get to a community band. But I’ll need to improve enough to be able to play better pieces before I’ll enjoy putting in the time needed to get there. Remember Catch 22?

Speaking of bands, I have one other tidbit to share on my Sax Appeal journey. It happened a week ago tonight, when we were attending the Boston Pops concert at Tanglewood. One of the men in our entourage introduced himself, after he confirmed my name. “You’re the sax player, right?” “Not exactly,” said I. “I used to be, and I’m working on it again.” I asked how he’d heard about my attempts to reboot my horn skills. Apparently grapevines grow wild in condo communities.

Turns out he’s the recently installed band director for Wesleyan University, which is just 20 minutes away. This follows a career in directing and several attempts at retiring, which have all resulted in his going back to the podium again. He’s trying to get me to join his group. Apparently, though it carries the University’s name, it’s more of a community band. Some players are in high school and many are community members, as I would be.

This new director is trying to raise the level of his assemblage and has somehow concluded that I can help do that. (From his mouth to God’s ear.) I’m nowhere near ready to play on a team that carries the word “university” in its name. But it’s comforting to know that someone feels I might be an asset at some point. He knows of at least five groups in the area that I could probably join.

This has prompted me to revise that old joke. Now it’s: “How do you get to Wesleyan University? Practice, practice, practice.” But first I need to improve upon my schedule planning. And deal with that maddening Catch 22. Stay tuned.

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