|Learning how to improvise, or when my horn was shiny!|
In conversation with a friend last weekend, I was reminded of a time in my life, before my family arrived in Barbados, when we lived in Saratoga California and I attended Harker Academy in Palo Alto.
Yes, that is me in the middle with a shiny horn (The same selmer mark VI that I play today).
Although not a part of the cadet program, we were drafted to play a few times a week when the cadets marched around the field. After a disastrous attempt to get us to march and play in formation, our band master Dana Morgan wisely decided that we should stand in one place, and leave the marching drills to the cadets.
This is actually where I first began to improvise. you may notice the small music books attached to our instruments. After the first 6 weeks of repetitively playing these songs they were etched in our memories (I can remember them all to this day). To circumvent the tedious routine of playing the same songs over and over, the saxophonist to my right encouraged me to play a game where we would vary the notes of the melody without Mr. Morgan noticing. This was a good ear training experience since we had to find the chord tones that would match the harmony of the moment and allow our alternate melodies to fly under our teacher's radar.
This picture would have been taken around 1975 in a school that was a very different experience to the one I would have in Barbados a few years later. It's interesting to note that unlike the Barbadian government schools of today, back then at Harker, there were no school prayers and no corporal punishment of students.