Memoir Mondays: Golden Notes

This is part of a project at Two Writing Teachers

Golden Notes
(listen to the memoir)

In fourth grade, when she entered our classroom to tell us about the music program at the elementary school, the music teacher, Mrs. P, picked me out special. She knew me anyway. Her husband was my brother’s private trumpet teacher.

“I have a saxophone for you,” she told me that day.

She had remembered our conversation so many years ago when I had been sitting in their living room, listening to my brother’s lesson. She had asked me then what instrument I wanted to play (she never had a doubt that I would not play something) and I had told her the saxophone.

She brought me down to the music room that day. She took me behind the stage, where cases of instruments were stacked precariously, as if one blow from a tuba would send everything flying. I watched breathlessly as she opened up the hard case.

Inside, gleaming in the overhead lights from the stage, was an alto saxophone, a golden Bundy saxophone. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever witnessed. It was golden, with white ivory keys, resting in its black padded case. I touched a key and it clicked. It felt as if Christmas had come early and I had been the best boy in the world for the past year.

My smile went from ear to ear.

“This is yours to use,” Mrs. P said.

I didn’t want to even touch it, as if I might tarnish it or ruin it forever with my clumsy, dirty fingers. It was too perfect. Mrs. P showed me how to put the pieces together: how to use the neck strap so that the saxophone dangled out in front of you, perfectly weighted; where to put your fingers; how to wet the wooden reed and attach it to the mouthpiece.

“Try it,” she said, after putting the sax together for me, so I did.

It was an awful first sound, and I opened my eyes wide in surprise. If I wasn’t so excited, I might have given up right there on that first goose honk.

“The saxophone is challenging,” she assured me. “You’ll have to practice. It’s a lot of work. Don’t give up. Go on, try it again.”

Those were the first steps I took to learning something that was so completely and utterly new to me. Yet, as the saxophone was cradled in my hands, I knew I had found something that belonged to me, and only me. It felt completely natural, even as I screeched out another squeak from the golden bell.

I wanted to shout it out through the hallways of my school that day: I am a saxophone player and I wouldn’t give up.

Peace (in music),
Kevin

Share this post:
10 Comments
  1. Ah, music to my ears. My coming to the sax was very different but still I could walk in your shoes and remember my own path to sax passion. Great way to begin my day.
    Bonnie

  2. This paragraph is my favorite because of the vivid descriptions you use. You really bruoght the story to life here!

    didn’t want to even touch it, as if I might tarnish it or ruin it forever with my clumsy, dirty fingers. It was too perfect. Mrs. P showed me how to put the pieces together: how to use the neck strap so that the saxophone dangled out in front of you, perfectly weighted; where to put your fingers; how to wet the wooden reed and attach it to the mouthpiece.

  3. What a wonderful story. My own introduction to elementary school band was a little different. I wanted to play the flute, and wound up with tht trombone. I only lasted three years.
    Thanks,
    Lynn

  4. Teachers are a powerful influence on us. What a gift she gave you – not just the saxaphone, but the ability to play the saxaphone, and the trust to have it go back and forth. She remembered that this was the instrument you wanted to play! My children play cello and viola – they love their instruments! I remember the day they picked them. They have played since 4th grade. http://www.debrennersmith.com

  5. Isn’t it wonderful how a great teacher can change your life? My daughter started playing the flute this year and did not have a great teacher — even though she herself played the flute — it almost turned into a disaster but we found a private tutor who saved the day. My son has already chosen the trumpet to play when he gets to 4th grade (year after next). I should start looking for a tutor for him, too, I guess. 🙂

    You wrote this really well, Kevin. I could feel your excitement and awe.

  6. Another fabulous memoir, Kevin.
    You give the reader the ability to completely walk with you.
    Your story left me a bit bereft, as I always wanted to play the flute,
    but somehow got left behind in the system.
    ~jane

  7. Great story, Kevin. It reminded me of my devotion to the clarinet when I was in 4th grade. I got all choked up at an assembly while playing “My Country tis of Thee,” and my clarinet started to squeal and annoy my music teacher. I haven’t displayed such passionate patriotism since then…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *