Sunday, June 05, 2005


(Originally run 12/10/03 on the old site)

Ernest Simpson

One of the more difficult aspects of playing a wind instrument is the proper application of the technique of articulation. It gives mood to the music, staccato or legato, adds sweet and gentle or rough and abrasive. Tonguing and slurring in an appropriate place is a technique all wind players must master for effective performance.

Judging alto sax at region tryouts one year was a true saxophone expert, Jon Barbarotto from Brinkley. Jon had a good sense of humor and made a long day of hearing individual players doing etudes, scales and exercises go quickly. I was a young teacher and had been asked to sit in on the panel. There had been thirty-nine players that day so far, with no exceptional performance. Then the doorkeeper announced No. 40.

Student No.40 that day was a pretty little alto sax player, about fourteen, with hair and dress immaculate, and very proper and prim. This type student, by her attitude, was typically very well-prepared, and made every effort to score as high in the auditions as possible. She came to make an impression and do well as a musician.

She came in, took her seat, smoothed her skirt, and placed her music on the stand. She checked her horn, and made preparation to play portions of page 62, a difficult etude. Jon told her she could begin when ready.

She looked at the page one last time, and turned to Jon. She was visibly nervous, but was trying very hard not to let it show.

She said, “Sir, would you like this exercise slunged or turd.” (Obviously, intending to say “tongued” or “slurred” – and not making either).

Without batting an eye, Jon replied, “Oh honey, I think I’d slung it.”

Tryouts were always fun when he was around.


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