My uncle Edgar (far left) with his Holton Soprano. That's my grandpa Lewis (far right) on trumpet. circa 1930's

My uncle Edgar (far left) with his Holton Soprano. That’s my grandpa Lewis (far right) on trumpet. (circa 1930’s)


11210447_10152851944231485_679485206814624929_nMy lifelong devotion to music began at the age of 8. I had always been into music, but at age eight I began taking private lessons. I asked Santa for a guitar that year, and true to his word, he left an acoustic under the Christmas tree. The only stipulation was that I had to study the instrument, so my mother signed me up for lessons at the nearest music store. I was anxious to begin, but it didn’t turn out as I had envisioned. Instead of learning how to rock out, I had to learn how to read out of the Mel Bay Guitar Method book. I hated it! Music became like a job and I did everything I could to get out of practicing. After a year and a half, I had abandoned the guitar.

My Great Grandfather Benjamin Swagler

My Great Grandfather Benjamin Swagler (circa 1890’s)

When I started band at school I had my eyes set on yet another instrument, the drums. I remember all of the instruments laid out in the gym. As soon as the band director asked me what I would like to play, I immediately said “drums!” He replied, “We already have too many drummers. Why don’t you try a wind instrument?” I had no desire to play anything other than drums but I did as he suggested and tried a trumpet, a clarinet, and a saxophone. He coerced me into settling on the alto sax. “The saxophone is perfect for you because you have saxophone lips.” “Whatever,” I thought.

Little did I realize how fateful that day would become. It turned out that both my uncle and great uncle played the saxophone in their school days. My grandparents dug out my uncle’s horn from storage, a 1963 Selmer Mark VI. This horn is still my primary instrument. My great uncle’s 1920’s Holton soprano sax still gets played as well.

My Uncle Terry in 1967 with his Selmer Mark VI. This is the horn I started on and continue to play today.

My Uncle Terry in 1964 with his Selmer Mark VI. This is the horn I started on and continue to play today.

I picked up the guitar again in high school. This time around I practiced constantly. I lost track of time learning tunes by ear and writing music. The saxophone, however, was just a band instrument to me. I didn’t have an interest in it, I hadn’t yet been exposed to the great music produced on the instrument.

When deciding on what to study in college, I chose music. For me, there was no other option. However, I didn’t dare audition on guitar because I played that instrument by ear. I could read music on the saxophone, so it became my primary instrument in college. Boy was I green. I hadn’t even heard of Charlie Parker!

Since then, I’ve had quite a few adventures with that horn, and I hope to have many more in the years to come.