A Salute to (My) Teachers - 3. Teachers by Example

(recordings and life history by example)

Marcel Mule

I first heard the recordings of Marcel Mule at the University of Houston around 1970. I remember a small LP with part of the Ibert, and later a Selmer record, with part of Tomasi Concerto and the Bonneau Caprice en Forme de Valse (which sounded perfect to me then--and still does now). By my sophomore year, I also heard Mule's recording of the 2nd Brandenburg, recorded with Casals at Prades. What impressed me, was that the sound so superb, and consistent, always beautiful (a sort of Philadelphia Orchestra in miniature) and it was a great model. I remember thinking his vibrato (also very consistent) was a bit wide at the time, but again, I don't think about it now. Here was a great musician--and his students didn't play with his vibrato or sound, they played as themselves. From what I have observed, he brought out the best in his students, and that his the greatest tribute to a teacher. No, I did not study with him, but I certainly studied him.

Jean-Marie Londeix

I had known Monsieur Londeix from his recordings, and from my friendships with many of his students including, Harvey Pittel, San Francisco saxophonist Dave Henderson, Jim Umble and of course Bill Street. Londeix falls into the same category as Mule. For me, Mule was the grandfather figure, or father of the saxophone (some would argue Sigurd Rascher, and I have no reason to disagree with anyone's 'beliefs'). But Londeix IS the father of the Modern Saxophone. He took the saxophone to new heights. He had the highest expectations of himself, worked as hard as anyone I have ever known, plays at the highest level imaginable, chronicled the repertoire of the saxophone, compiled his own publications for beginners through advanced, and he commissioned and provided the inspiration and impetus for the Edison Denisov ‘Sonate,’ possibly the finest sonata for the saxophone to this date, and which revolutionized saxophone playing. He opened up a world of sound, which saxophonists eagerly adopted, and since then, has brought the saxophone to the fore as perhaps the LEADING vehicle/exponent of new music today for any instrument. Londeix is a gentleperson, but full of life. He has produced a biography as well as the most complete bibliography of saxophone music. When I formed World-Wide Concurrent Premieres, and enlisted his help, he wrote me a very long and polite letter, but firm, encouraging me to commission composers who stretched the technique of the saxophone. We correspond, met at convention, and he continues to offer advice to me which is most gratefully received. I am very lucky, and we are all lucky to have such an involved 'parent.' And if you haven't heard 'music de chambre avec saxophone' or his legacy collection --you need to buy them. It is complete and historic playing, by one of the finest saxophonists and musicians in music history.

Benny Goodman

I was the best clarinet player amongst all the saxophonists at New England Conservatory (a dubious distinction), so I was chosen to play all the Benny Goodman solos in our swing band recreations, some with Gunther Schuller, and later, many with Bo Winiker, who was the reincarnation of Bix Beiderbeke. I played 'Don't Be That Way,' 'Let's Dance,' etc. Benny Goodman commissioned Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemoth and Bela Bartok, three of the most important composers of the twentieth century, permanently contributing to the classical repertoire. He recorded the Nielsen concerto (widely considered the most difficult classical concerto for many years), and he recorded Stravinsky's work for jazz band and clarinet 'Ebony Concerto.' after Woody Hermann (a pretty terrific player too) just couldn't get it all done. I had seen the Steve Allen movie many items portraying him, but I never had seen him live, until he did a benefit for the Boston Symphony in Symphony Hall during one of Boston's many major snowstorms. I sat on the first row, moving up from the peanut gallery, because no one could make it into the city and I lived across the street. Benny would not cancel, as it was a benefit. He played three sets, smiling all the while. It was glorious. After the concert, which started late because of the snow, and ended around 12:30 I waited backstage for an autograph, along with many others. Benny's manager came out , took our programs (he couldn't see all of us), but there was a little boy rubbing both eyes with his fists, who was with his father. In a classic moment, they were invited in, and I watched the boy come out a few minutes later with a life-changing smile. That to me will always epitomize Benny Goodman's contribution to every generation, as someone who related on every level, young and old, classical or jazz, or any combination of the above, and with a smile on his face while doing it.

Elise Hall

America's first concert saxophonist was a woman. (My more complete thoughts on Mrs. Hall may be seen in another article on this website). I have always been inspired by Mrs. Hall's almost manic devotion to her chosen instrument. Her grandchildren, Arthur Pier and Charlotte Salisbury still had some memories of her when I first met them, and they both were indefatigable themselves, with Dr. Pier (who coincidentally was Gunther Schuller's doctor) and Charlotte Salisbury (who was an original Kelly girl, was married to the editor of the NY Times, and World War II historian Harrison Salisbury, and active herself in NY democratic politics through the Clinton administration), both being representatives of the family keeping the flame burning brightly, and both into their nineties. Mrs. Hall survived the death of her husband at age 47, significant hearing loss, and began playing the saxophone, commissioning the leading composers of the day, including d'Indy and Debussy.

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