Since mid-March, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. Haven’t we all? One of the things I’ve been doing to prevent “cabin fever” is spending time in my backyard, and, there, I’ve been accompanied by my music.
When I was a little asthmatic boy, the doctors suggested to my parents that I should play a wind instrument. I chose the clarinet, because it was light and easy to carry. I took lessons for years, but pretty much wasted the money my parents were paying for those lessons. I never really got any good at playing the clarinet, and I never showed any signs that I would ever get better at it. However, my lungs were getting stronger, and I was getting bigger and healthier. The clarinet seemed to have had its day with Benny Goodman, though, and I was tired of it. So, I asked my parents for a saxophone. The saxophone was one of the popular instruments in Rock ‘N’ Roll. The other was the guitar, but I had no aptitude for that instrument. At least the saxophone was something like the clarinet. Much to the annoyance of my neighbors who had to listen to me practice, my parents bought me the bigger, louder instrument.
Of course, I wanted to be in a Rock ‘N’ Roll band, and, so, I joined one. Since none of the other band members wanted to sing, and there were only a handful of instrumentals, the job of lead singer became mine. They let me play my saxophone on two songs, Tequila by the Champs and Summertime, from the musical Porgy and Bess. I wasn’t very good at those two songs, but it didn’t matter since we rarely played them in public.
Then I joined the Navy and as soon as I got to boot camp, I auditioned for the Boot Camp band. They really weren’t that picky, so I got in. They really weren’t planning ahead too well, either, when they accepted about a dozen saxophone players for a marching band that only really needed about four. So, I was in the band, but I never played a note. That didn’t matter to me though, the important thing was that I wound up in a company composed of musicians, and other “special” people. We had guys on the precision drill team, and other people of dubious special talent, who were not in the service for our ability to lay waste the enemy. For us it was Boot Camp Lite. Every time our company was scheduled for the obstacle course, I told our Drill Instructor, Gunner’s Mate Chief Jordan, that I had band practice. I never once had to go on the infamous obstacle course.
After that, I didn’t play an instrument for 45 years. Then I moved to Lancaster and decided to give it another try. I bought a clarinet and saxophone, but they sat in the closet until Covid-19 hit. During the first few months of isolation, I started to play both instruments, and for a laugh I posted songs on Facebook. It didn’t take me long to reach the same level of mediocrity that I had attained as a child, but, this time, it was fun. And now we have YouTube. There were dozens of videos available to teach me the things that poor Don Felice Alfino struggled in vain to teach me as a child. I can now play 7 notes on the saxophone that I didn’t even know existed back then. I found “back-up” tracks on the Internet that allow me to play along with other musicians. The “Music Minus One” orchestra contains every instrument but the saxophone. So, theoretically, the orchestra is complete when I play along. Theoretically, that is. They usually finish a song when I am about 3/4s of the way through it. It’s going to take some time for me to actually be able to play with them, but time seems to be the one thing we all have plenty of.
I may not sound too good yet, but I bought a couple different background cloths that, at least, make me look good, and as Billy Crystal would say, it’s better to look mah-vel-ous than to actually be mah-vel-ous.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,