We loved John’s video of “Danny Boy” which he shared with our Sax School Facebook Community – so we made him Student of the Week!
As a former music teacher, John is not a typical Sax School member. Even so, John is still learning and being inspired by our Sax School Community.
Starting on Saxophone
Music has been a big part of John’s life since he was a child. “My uncle got me a beat up old Conn saxophone and fixed it up for me,” he says. “He got me started.”
John is from a very musical family. “My grandfather moved to America in 1904,” he explains. “He was a brilliant clarinet player. Both my grandfather and my uncle played in civic bands locally, and they taught me to play the sax.”
They pushed John from an early age. “My uncle sat me down when I’d been playing for just a few months, and he put on a Coleman Hawkins recording of ‘It’s the Talk of the Town’. He got me playing along with it and transcribing the melody.”
In his early teens, John started to play saxophone in local bars. “I played with Matt Carducci, a well known jazz organist,” John explains. “We would be playing and he would say ‘Come on kid, follow me!’ Matt would modulate right in the middle of a song into another tune, without warning. So, I learned a lot about playing by ear and improvising. It’s one of times in my life that I enjoyed the most.”
“We would be playing and he would say ‘Come on kid, follow me!’
John went on to major in music at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “I was lucky to be taught by some amazing musicians,” says John, “including Lou Marini, who is the father of the famous Blue Lou Marini from the ‘Blues Brothers’. Our own Nigel McGill used to hang out with Blue Lou in New York. I even played gigs with Lou Snr!” John went on to teach music at a number of different schools.
Then in 1983 John’s life took a different turn. “I lost my hearing,” John explains. “I’d spent so many years playing in jazz and rock bands, and I’d worked in a steel mill in the summer during college. I never used hearing protection; no-one talked about hearing loss back then.”
When he lost his hearing, John sold his Selmer Mark VI tenor, and moved away from music. “I stopped teaching band; and I couldn’t even listen to music. So, I moved into teaching maths and computing instead.”
Five years later, a former student asked John if he wanted to buy her Selmer Mark VI alto. “I started to play saxophone in church again,” explains John. “I can’t hear the top and bottom end of my range, except through headphones which I use when I’m recording or playing with a backing track.” John also got new high tech hearing aids which enabled him to enjoy listening to music again.
Discovering Sax School
Then three years ago John discovered Sax School. “Sax School inspires me to do better,” says John. “I’m still a teacher, so a lot of what I share is to help other members.”
John also loves the Sax School community. “It’s full of such fantastic people,” he says. “People often contact me for advice and I love to help.”
Sax School inspires me to do better
Even though he is such an experienced musician, John has learned a lot from Sax School. “No one had ever taught me how to improvise, he explains. “I always just played from the heart. Sax School has taught me the theory, – about chord structures for instance.”
John also wants to develop his blues playing. “I’d never learned about pentatonics and the blues scale,” he says, “I’m so inspired by other Sax School members when they play the blues.”
Saxophone Learning Goals
There is always room for development, even as a long-standing player. “I’ve set myself a couple of goals just this week,” says John. “I want to add some space in my solo for silence, and get away from all the familiar nuances I fall back into using. I play too many notes!”
John is working on building a repertoire of songs with backing tracks. “I want to get out and entertain,” he says. “I’ve played in a local bar called “The Soggy Bottom”- they have a regular jazz night – and I’m planning to play there regularly.”
It’s great to have John as part of our Sax School Community – he is such an inspiration to us all. Congratulations to John on being our Student of the Week!
Want to learn saxophone like John?
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