musical auto-bio

Since a lot of my life (and this blog) revolves around music, I will try to give you some insight into my musical history, a brief musical autobiography if you will. It’s intended to give you some perspective in reading my blog, and also pique your curiosity to want to read more (or perhaps convince you that you don’t want to keep reading my blog – we’ll see). This page covers what instruments I’ve learned to play over the course of my 30ish year life to date.

I started playing music at a fairly old age by most standards. Here’s a chronological listing of when I began playing certain instruments and when, with other pertinent information:

  • Although I “tinkered” on piano around ages 7-8, I didn’t begin formal lessons until I was about 9. My parents signed me up because the school district we lived in at the time had students starting instruments in the fifth grade, and they wanted me to have some background in how to read music going into it. My teacher trained me classically, and I would continue with piano lessons through high school.
  • I turned ten the September that I started the fifth grade, and this is when I started on the saxophone (alto).
  • A little over a year later (October/November of sixth grade), my family moved and I was in a new school district. In the new district, students started instruments in the sixth grade, so I was a little ahead of my new peers. However, they didn’t allow students to start on saxophone right away, so I was required to switch to clarinet. This helped to broaden my abilities on woodwinds, but I didn’t really master the clarinet since a year later I was able to switch back to saxophone. My embouchure (the way I held the clarinet in my mouth) was never really right anyway since I was already “tainted” by the sax.
  • I played alto sax through seventh and eighth grades. I was still taking piano lessons at this point as well, and began teaching piano lessons in the eighth grade. I continued teaching piano on and off through high school.
  • Freshman year in high school was kind of a wash, since the band director was on his last year before retirement and didn’t really seem to care what we did. I went back to clarinet to keep things interesting, but the main thing I learned that year in band class was how to play euchre.
  • Sophomore year brought a completely different scenario. The high school hired a new band director who was serious about what he did, and inspired his students to grow and also enjoy what we were doing at the same time. I switched back to alto saxophone and grew immensely from a musical standpoint. This band instructor is still one of my role models to this day, not only as a musician but also as a leader and a man. It was during my time with him that I really got a spark for music performance in a group setting.
  • Junior year I was an alto saxophone section leader for marching band, and I began to become interested in jazz (courtesy of the aforementioned band director). I also began playing baritone saxophone in the concert band.
  • Senior year I finally joined the jazz band (something I should have done years earlier), and played baritone saxophone in the A-flight concert band (“wind ensemble”). I also played piano for one of the lower-level jazz bands, making me the biggest band nerd in school history since I was in three bands that year. It was my ideal schedule, though, and I had a blast doing it.
  • Sometime senior year I bought myself a soprano saxophone. Also, as a senior graduation present, my parents bought me a tenor saxophone. So going into college I had quite an arsenal – I owned an alto, soprano, and tenor saxophone (along with a clarinet), I had experience playing the baritone saxophone, and had developed into a fairly good piano player; rather than having a graduation open house, I gave a 45-minute piano recital from memory of several well-known classical pieces, and I had also participated in sonatina festivals and achievement testing through high school up to the highest level (which included performance, theory, technic, aural, and sight reading/transposition).
  • In college, I was involved with the marching band and the jazz bands. I marched with the alto saxophone mostly (although one year I marched with the bari!), and played tenor saxophone and piano in school jazz ensembles (jazz band and a jazz quintet, respectively). I also played soprano saxophone with a student-led Dixieland group, which was very interesting (we had “gigs” playing in local nursing homes). I received a guitar from my parents for my 20th birthday (what college kid is complete without a guitar to strum?) which I began teaching myself on. Regretfully, my classical piano skills went into hibernation during college where they still remain today, but one day they will no doubt wake up and roam free again!
  • After college, I have steadily continued to play the guitar for fun. My wife gave me a bass guitar for our first Christmas as a married couple, which I tinker on from time to time and have played with some church groups. Marrying my wife also gave me rights to practice on her flute, which like the clarinet I haven’t really mastered but I am somewhat dangerous (but nowhere near the Ron Burgundy level of flute mastery).
  • For Christmas in 2008, I received a banjo from my beloved mother.  I am [slowly] working on mastering it. For now, it is also just nice to look at because I have Bela Fleck’s signature on the head.
  • Starting in 2008, I have been consistently playing with my church worship band on piano and bass.  We play contemporary music, and on piano I’ve enjoyed being able to improvise and keep my piano skills alive.

So there you have it. To summarize, I play (and own) an alto, soprano, and tenor saxophone, a clarinet, a flute, an acoustic guitar, an electric bass guitar, and a banjo. I also am a classical and jazz pianist, although I don’t currently own a piano or keyboard. My alto saxophone isn’t exactly in top working order, since several years ago I underwent a project to paint it black. The project was mostly successful, except that I decided to do a full pad replacement at the same time which caused certain notes to have problems. But all the other instruments are all fully operational, albeit in various depths of storage in my house currently.

One of my favorite instrument is the tenor saxophone, which is not only pleasing to the ears if played correctly, but also pleasing to the the eyes as it’s dark red in color.

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