In high school I learned to play baritone sax in the marching and concert band. At 6í tall and 102lbs., you need to find an alternative to being part of the sports world of high school. I was self-taught and did okay, but didnít really have any huge music aspirations. I attended the University of Illinois as an astronautical engineering student, but too much freedom and the times of the early 70ís pretty much stepped in to alter my course in life. Before dropping out of school to join the military, I auditioned for the U of I music school and was accepted. At the time though, it was done with no serious intent and I left the university. I carried my original Sears Silvertone tenor sax around with me for the next 30 years, and once in a while would take it out just to see if I still could blow. In 1999, I was looking for something to do outside of work and my wife convinced me to buy a decent horn and play around. So down to the Horn Dr. I went, where John actually took my old Silvertone in trade and set me up with a new Selmer alto. I got hooked up with Jeff Baird, who would take on an adult for lessons and he ended up being one of the most encouraging people in my life. I also ate my pride and joined the U of A jazz band, where Karen Strid and a great bunch of kids took me in and encouraged me to overcome my shyness. This was necessary as I wouldnít play outside of my practice room. I soon bought a soprano and tenor amid delusions of grandeur, and put in a lot of practice time.
Then God decided to intervene. In Jan 2001, I was diagnosed with inoperable esophageal cancer. After 3 months of chemo, radiation and then major surgery, I was pretty nuts and thatís when people in the music world in Anchorage started stepping into my life. Jeff Baird never gave up on me and encouraged me to start playing again as a means of recovery. A young UA student named Tyler took me under his wing and introduced me to different venues around town. Then Clon von Fitz and John Wheatley invited me to play with them at Cyranoís. Both of them passed on all they could and pushed me to stretch. After a while John introduced me to Midnight Starlight, Tom Lambert, Liz and all the singers and let me sit in with the group. When John moved to Washington, Tom was kind enough to offer me Johnís slot with the trio playing at the Corsair. Iím still trying to fill those shoes. I have switched to a Keilwerth alto though, as I like the sound and have stayed with alto since it seems everyone plays tenor and soprano these days. I like all kinds of music from gospel to swing to jazz to rock. Anywhere a horn fits.
So, nope I wasnít a rock star or a studio musician. But itís 6 years after the big C and I am alive and kicking and have had the honor of meeting and playing with a lot of encouraging people. Basically, Iím 54 and just getting started. I guess the man decided I just needed a big lesson in life to get my attention and point me in new directions.
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