Today I “tooted my own horn” (not so unusual for a politician) – but the horn I tooted was my big antique Buffet baritone saxophone with the Anchorage Community Concert Band at the Saturday Market. We’ll play the Saturday Market again in August, and do our Winter Concert in December. The wonderful thing for me is that there is no “political agenda” when I play in the band. I “mellow out,” and put politics aside. Most of us in the band are “has been” high school or military band musicians, and if we had to make a living making music, we’d starve. But that’s not the point. The point is: music, especially “making music,” can be its own reward.
I thank my parents for those first music lessons when I was about ten years old, and I thank my boyhood schools for the gift of music. I’m a strong advocate of schools teaching the “basics” of reading, writing, and arithmetic. But I’m also an advocate for music in the schools. In the legislature I will always support school music.
I think learning to read words in a book, and learning to read music reinforce each other. Learning about how 16th, 8th, and quarter notes add up to one to make a musical measure reinforces learning fractions. Following the directions of the conductor relates to following directions from the classroom teacher. And I submit that learning the teamwork of a band or orchestra is no less demanding than teamwork lessons of football and basketball (without the bruises). The anxietyof first solo you play in a band is not much different than overcoming the anxiety of the first public speech Music also teaches history, ethnic cultures, but most of all music is great fun – and more fun would make the world a better place!
My first school music experience started in the 6th Grade Orchestra at 4th Avenue School in East Los Angeles (that was a long time ago, but don’t believe the rumor that Mozart played in the same orchestra). During my high school years I played in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Boy’s Band (I marched in the very long Pasadena Rose Parade six times – one time playing the bass drum (probably what’s wrong with my back today), the East Los Angeles Junior Lions Club Band, the Elks 99 Band. In those days, almost every community had one or more community youth bands (which kept a lot of out of trouble so that later we could get in trouble in a legislature).
At the infamous Garfield High in East Los Angeles (of “Stand and deliver” movie fame) I was a member of the Bulldog Marching Band and Junior ROTC Band., as well as Orchestra, and Advanced Ensemble (even played bassoon – badly-for a while). My first Air Force military experience as a member of the 541st Air Force Band at the now defunct Williams Air Force Base at Chandler, Arizona.
When I left the military band in 1952 for Aviation Cadet flying school and officer training, I put the saxophone down and didn’t play again until 1988 – when I joined the American-Bavarian Brass Band in southern California. This was 25 piece German “oom papa” band playing schmaltzy “cry-in-your-beer” waltzes, stirring European marches, the “Chicken Dance,” and of course polka, polka, polka! .On my lederhosen outfit I wore a button that proclaimed, “Polka till you puke” ( I probably shouldn’t have shared that). I must confess, this is the kind of music I most enjoy playing. The only – the ONLY - thing I miss from California is that great German band.
If you have kids, get them into music. – and support music in our schools.