Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Saxophone? I Can Barely Use a Telephone!

Well, it’s official. I am out of my mind.

I have taken up the saxophone.

My now-famous doctor of naturopathic medicine thought I should take up swimming to strengthen my lungs. “Frank Sinatra was a swimmer,” she said.

Sinatra swam underwater to develop his lung capacity — which enabled him to continue a musical phrase through a stanza without pausing for breath.

“I’ve always been more of an artist than an athlete,” I argued. “Couldn’t I try something else, like, oh, I don’t know, saxophone?”

Immediately, Dr. Lisa saw no reason I couldn’t do both. That girl thinks I have 26 hours in my day.

I procrastinated for weeks. For one thing, saxophones don’t come cheap. For another, I’d be lying if I said I’ve always wanted to play one.

Finally, I put out a tentative query on Facebook: “Anybody know where I can find a bargain on a used saxophone? Quality not important. It will be played by a 53-year old beginner with weak lungs.”

My odds were pretty slim, right? I felt safe.

An answer came shortly from the most unbelievable source. My own son-in-law had an alto sax collecting dust in his storage space. Who knew Kevin played in his school band for a year in Grade 5? His wife would be happy to let me use it.

What had I gotten myself into? What if I hated it? What if I couldn’t even get a squeak out of the silly thing? Did I really need one more thing to do?

Lucky for me, it was several weeks before we collected the instrument from their home in Calgary. Kevin gave me a quick lesson while my daughter chuckled and chortled. The next day we travelled home with the shiny Yamaha in its velvety-lined case. All I needed was a pair of shades and a hat and I was set.

I put out a new query on Facebook: “Anybody know a local, affordable saxophone instructor willing to take on a 53-year old beginner with weak lungs and a low frustration threshold?” I figured my odds were pretty much one in a million.

But within half an hour, my first lesson was booked with a guy who is proving himself the best music teacher ever. I’m not making this up. Ritchard Wiebe is a wonderful saxophone player, a patient teacher, and a generous encourager.

More importantly, he and his lovely bride Liz both laugh at my jokes.

(On a side note, at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, every person I know born with the name “Wiebe” arrived on the planet with music seeping out of their pores. Have you noticed?)

So I’ve been blowing my horn half an hour a day for six weeks now, convinced God will eventually reward my longsuffering husband. As for the neighbours? It’s a good thing I’m starting in winter when all the windows stay closed.

Having taken piano lessons as a kid, I can tell you a saxophone is completely illogical. On a piano, the notes appear in nice, neat order. When you hit a key, it will always play the same note no matter what you do with your lips, your cheeks, your tongue, or your eyebrows. 

Not so with a sax. The notes don’t follow any predictable pattern. Alternative, convoluted methods to play many of them must be learned. And just because you’ve placed your fingers on the correct buttons doesn’t mean the note will come out right. 

So maybe I won’t be the next Lisa Simpson. But guess what? I’m having fun! I can play Jingle Bells, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, and Good King Wenceslas, all at the same volume: LOUD. Why no one has booked me for their Christmas party is mystifying.

This whole scenario of finding both a sax and a great teacher is something we in Christian circles like to call “a God thing.”

You can call it what you want. Just don’t accuse me of tooting my own horn. Technically, it still belongs to Kevin.


  1. Awriiiiight, now that you're ready to book concerts...our school prgramm is on the 19th. Consider yourself invited. Don't forget your sax - we'll let you blow Kevin's horn on our stage. I've just realized I have a strong longing to hear Good King Wenceslas and your rendition should fulfill this longing nicely. What say? You know how to reach me.

  2. The version I know is played with three notes and the entire song lasts about 9 seconds. Thanks for the offer, Linda, but I'll let the children take the spotlight.