minutia press.
Why saxophone?

Nathan posts about his retrospective view on band and his desire to part ways with his saxophone. I am married to a band director and thought I should put in my 2 cents about why band might be a good thing after all.

A few summers ago I participated in a "ropes" course at a Dad and I program run by the JCC here. There are various tasks set to the group. For example, one task involves getting over a 14-foot sheer (plywood) wall. It doesn't count unless all people make it over (taking a line from Lilo and Stitch, Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind). The technique we used was to have the first person (this was me) to stand on shoulders and then pull himself up and over the top of the wall. I then helped the next person by pulling from the top (there was a platform on the other side of the wall. All but the last person could get up this way, and the last person had to crawl up a chain of suspended people to make it over.

The point of this ropes course is to build a sense of interreliance in a group of people. It was a collaborative experience, from designing the solution to carrying it out. One person could never do it alone, as the first person can't get over the 14-foot wall without a boost from somebody. It takes at least 3 people to make it over the top.

My sense is that it has become all too easy to become isolated in today's society. While there are some things best done alone, I don't see people having collaborative experiences unless they are involved in things like team sports or band. In band, as with the ropes course, one person can't play all the parts. You have to rely on others to get the job done, and they in turn rely on on you as well.

I believe this kind of interreliance is good for a variety of reasons. But there is the risk of letting people down. I tried team sports as a kid and hated it because I was not good at it, and there was nobody to show me that I could get better or to encourage me to go in that direction. What a big mistake. As an adult, ice hockey has been one of the best experiences of my life, not because I'm any good at it, but because of the team, the interreliance aspect, and because adults are much more encouraging to other adults about getting better than kids are. An adult can see that the whole team gets better as each player improves, and an adult knows that telling another player that he or she is awful is counterproductive.

I have some close friends who are older by most standards but who get enormous joy out of playing in adult concert bands. They don't articulate it this way, but it's clear to me that they enjoy the company of others as well as the interreliance that comes from trying to make good music in a group.

While it may be that saxophone isn't for everyone, maybe some collaborative experience is healthy, so if you can't or don't want to play saxophone, I suggest finding something else you enjoy that involves relying on other people and having them rely on you.


It is an interesting idea. While I'm not sure that joining a band is the right thing, I definitely think doing something that gets me involved in a group, doing something fun would be a good idea.

Posted by: Nathan at October 16, 2003 12:50 AM