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I Am Clever


A Fine Line - Between Chaos and Creation

Everybody seems to think I'm lazy; I don't mind, I think they're crazy...

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Sunday, Week 11 - What Cadets/Military Has Taught Me
I Am Clever
Continuing with the catch-up! Any/all of you who read these are going to be so confused by my comments when they all show up out of order, due to my backdating. XD

21. To play the sax

First, you have no idea how hard it is to apparently find good photos (or photos in general) of me playing the sax. That aside... cadets taught me this!

Background: When I first joined cadets, my mom said I should consider being in the band, as I already played [piano], "so this would be good and help [me] to expand my musical knowledge"... or something like that. I said no - I wanted to be in the guard! They had rifles, and did all sorts of cool drill! Plus, I had enough of music at home, being in my fourth year of piano lessons, and having just taken up the guitar. I wanted to do something different.

Fun with weapons! (The guard is bigger; you just can't see all of it in this picture.)

Time passed, and it was now my third year of cadets. I'd become the Guard Commander - a move from rifles to a cutlass!


Around the same time, I decided I was dissatisfied with my lot in life. I'd done basically everything there was to do in cadets; everything, that is, except for band.

Now, I originally wanted to learn percussion. There's something so cool about the sound of marching band percussion (snares in particular), and I wanted to be able to do that. However, I was told that there were already enough perc players. The band officer said that the corps had a trumpet, a trombone, and a tenor sax available, though, if I wanted to learn any of those.

I had a friend who was also in the band at the time who played the tenor sax, and he offered to help me out if I decided to learn that instrument. Deciding that it seemed to be the best option, I went with the sax, and have never looked back.

I eventually went for level testing at one point, and received my cadet music level 2 for sax, which is approximately equivalent to RCM Grade 1-2 saxophone. I bought my own sax in 2010 due to problems in the corps/no longer being able to use that sax anymore (another story for another time), and I think I've more than gotten my money's worth.

I still play with our corps band sometimes if they need the instrumental support, or with the HMCS Quadra staff band whenever I go, and occasionally, I've played it in church. It's really a lot of fun, and I have cadets to thank for broadening my musical interests. (See, Mom? You were right - it was just a little delayed, that's all.)

Maybe it's narcissistic, but I really love this picture.

22. To multitask (specifically, band drill)

Two band/music-related ones for today! Again, it's apparently really hard to find pictures of me playing sax. I managed to luck out and find a couple of good ones from 2010, though. :D

So before, I talked about how I learned how to play the sax in cadets. What I didn't mention there (and I don't think anyone really thinks about until they've been in a marching band), is just how much concentration and ability to multitask that band requires.

Think about it. You're in a big rectangular shape of row upon row of people, and it's okay when you're standing still.

Pfft. Easy.

But suddenly, you have to move with these people and stay in step, marked by the bass drum/other percussion.

Uh... still easy, right?

Now, the percussion keeping time helps alleviate some of the concentration (left foot on the bass beats), but you still have to stay in line as well. Making sure you stay in line front to back and side to side is another level of thinking altogether, especially when you have to do it only with your peripheral vision.

Now add to this the fact that you have to pay attention to the Drum Major's signals, as all commands are given using the mace and bass drum - nothing verbal. Maybe you'll have to do a wheel (turning a corner, basically), or a spiral (band's way of doing a 180 - band curls around itself and marches through itself to turn around. It makes a lot more sense when you can see it happening, trust me). Maybe you'll make all sorts of unconventional shapes like a V or other similar things for a competition routine.

So, where were we? Staying in step, staying in line, DM signals, (possible) routine memorization required... am I missing anything?

Oh, right - actually playing music on top of that.

Nope - I take it back. Not easy at all.

You have to be able to control your breathing, even more so than if you're just in a concert band, as this is involving movement and a certain degree of physical exertion. You have to be able to read music (and be able to memorize if need be - windy days happen. I've lost music that way), and still be paying attention to everything else that's going on around you. You really have to be able to master the art of read your music-look up towards DM-back at music-check dressing to make sure I'm in line-back to music-back up; we're doing a spiral now-back to music. It's actually pretty insane.

It's not necessarily looked upon as the hardest-working course to take for summer training (I know I definitely thought that at first), but you really don't think about how much work and concentration goes into pulling off a band routine, and pulling it off well.

Whew. That one took longer to write than I thought it would. Continuing on!

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Playing the sax is awesome. Although it's slightly amusing, because you don't look like a very big person. It's almost as big as you are! ;) And I don't think it's at all narcissistic to have a photograph of yourself that you like - and that is a very nice photograph.

Definitely a talent well worth having. Well done.

The sax has been amazing - I always have so much fun when I play it. :D as for size, I'm 5' 5", and I've measured that the tenor sax is almost exactly half my height. It gets heavy sometimes if I wear it for longer periods of time, but I wouldn't trade it for an alto or anything smaller; I love the nice beefy sound you get from a tenor.

Absolutely. It's a terrific sound. Have you ever tried the baritone?

You can get electric saxes these days which sound pretty good. Mindi Abair often plays one. Fairly small body, which makes it easier for smaller people to play. I'd imagine you have to get one of the really good ones to get a decent sound though.

No, I've never actually tried Bari. I'd thought of trying last summer, but the cadets needed it instead, so they took priority. I'd love to try it at some point, though.

Electric sax? I didn't even know there was such a thing. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, though - there's electric versions of just about every single other instrument. I'll have to ask Tim about that (he works at a music store in the band department :P).

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