King of The Road
I started my musical journey back in 1972ish when I first started playing piano. I didn’t start taking lessons, I just found myself in front of a piano while on vacation. With everyone gone shopping that large upright baby grand piano just looked so interesting to a 6 year old.
The first piece of music I picked up that day that looked interesting was “King of the Road” that probably was playing quite frequently on the radio.
Back then I had no limitations nor any builtin habits. So I figured out the key positions to the notes; I don’t know if they were right but I kept the steps correct. Thus I first learned the main melody on my right hand, then learned the harmony on my left hand, and then merged the two together. Thus my piano playing started.
We didn’t have a piano at home but I would always play around like I was playing a piano. And would fiddle with them every chance when I can around them.
Then in 1974 “Band” came up in Elementary School. I actually didn’t want to pick up an instrument, but due to my mom liking Saxophone I went and picked up an alto saxophone, an H. Couf Royalist II. I practiced that saxophone every day for, what I’m told was 2 to 4 hours a day for years. Even in High School I played for hours on end. When I was a sophomore I cashed in some stocks I had from paper route money and bought myself the latest and greatest saxophone, a Selmer mk VII Alto. I perused the newspapers classifieds back then for months looking at prices of Selmer Paris mk IV, V, VI and VIIs (yes, those were typos). But I figured with 4, 5, 6 and 7s that the 7s had to be the best (actually the SA80 was already available too).
I was always intrigued by the clarinet when I was small and first saw them at band selection. The tone, dark low notes are especially interesting. In 1978, with paper route money I went to Royal Music in Royal Oak Michigan. I spoke to Mr. Couf and he went to the back room and after about 15 minutes came out with a Normandy 4 clarinet.
After a short while I ordered a O’Brien crystal mouthpiece with a Luyben ligature from the Woodwind store (later to be known as Woodwind and Brasswind).
The other instrument that I loved to listen to was the french horn. My cousin actually played one. And in 1982 my parents bought me a Buescher single lacquered french horn from Grinnells Music Store. Grinnells was actually going out of business at that time so I got it for a discount. I added playing that instrument to the hours and hours that I would practice. I was pretty good about to get to G above the staff without much of an issue. I used a medium Farkas mouthpiece from the beginning. I didn’t know that the FH was the hardest brass instrument to play. With good air support, a good focused air stream and good ear training I was able to play the french horn without much difficulty considering I had no training in it. To this day I still love playing the french horn though don’t play it very often. With that I also picked up cornet/trumpet. In High School I also played the alto horn in marching band.
In High School my band director also became the director of the Orchestra. He asked me to play cello as they needed a strong cello player. I picked up Cello in the summer and became first chair in a couple months during school. This was a great instrument to play. The Cello I had was a fine one with gut strings. I practiced this for hours and hours during the summer getting the finger position down. I continued to play on/off for years until I donated them to my local school and picked up electric bass/guitar. The bass & guitar are more easily used in bands than cello at an older age.
During High School I would perform the Solo and Ensemble as a Sax player, clarinet, French Horn and Cello. Garnering many first place positions. My band/orchestra Director also got me into the local Universities music program while still in High School. Even though the music arena collapsed in the mid 80s and I found out I was allergic to air pollution (cigarette smoke) that make a music performance degree back then unfeasible, so I readjusted my sights and obtained an Economics Degree. Though my love of music never stopped. At various points in life I also started judging Woodwinds, brass, strings and Piano.
I loved judging and providing positive reinforcement for kids in their music endeavors. I recall one clarinetist who I was hearing practicing outside her music and was playing it very well. But inside she just could not play her music at all. Too much jitters. At that point I knew she could play but focused on her being able to play in front of people. So I worked with her on focusing on the music and focusing out the environment. I was finally able to get her to play like she was outside. I wasn’t able to get her straight 1s but gave her mid 3s.
There no sense in “failing” anyone in a music competition, you have to work with them quickly to get them over the hump so that next time they’ll want to do it again and hopefully improve.
And that is the main aspect about music. Keep working and improving.
Have fun and never give up,