Going out and getting your first gig in a band is so intimidating, especially as an adult saxophone learner.
So if you want to know how to get a saxophone gig, check out Jacqui’s story. Jacqui is a Sax School member, and she’s just landed a gig that a few months ago, she never thought she’d be able to do.
And it’s not even on her main saxophone – but that’s a whole other story. We’ll get to that in a second.
But if you are an adult saxophone learner and you’re wondering how to get a saxophone gig, then check out this story. It’s going to blow your mind at what’s possible for us as saxophone players, getting out in the community and playing with other people.
Jacqui’s band schedule
So I started by asking Jacqui how many bands she’s playing with at the moment.
“So Monday night is with a big band. Then on a Tuesday night, I’ll play in a big band in Preston.
Wednesday night is usually my night off and that’s when I try and catch up with Sax School,” says Jacqui. But there’s more!
On Thursday, Jacqui rehearses with her own 7 piece swing band – we’ll find out more about that, so stick around.
“This Friday I’m depping, but Friday is usually a gig night for us,” Jacqui explains. “But I also play in a sax quartet, and we try and rehearse when we can. So sometimes that’s thrown in on a day when we’re not doing other things.”
Getting started on sax
So if you’ve never played in a single community band, your head’s probably spinning now, listening to Jacqui playing in all of these different groups.
But here’s the thing. Jacqui started learning sax as an adult. So it’s interesting to find out how she actually got started on saxophone. And also check out what she had to say about her experience of getting started with her very first community band.
“I took up sax quite late, compared to a lot of people,” Jacqui explains. ” but I was fascinated by the saxophone… and one day I just thought, you know what, I’d love to play the saxophone. And then I thought, what’s stopping you?”
So Jacqui went to her local music store and leased a saxophone, so she could give it a try.
Soon Jacqui felt ready to play with other people. So she asked her daughter’s clarinet teacher if there was a community band she could join, locally. “She told me about a school band, where if you’re an ex-pupil or you’re a parent of the child, then you can join.”
Playing with a band
I asked Jacqui if she found it challenging when she first started playing with a band.
“Yeah, absolutely.” says Jacqui. “Because there’s a big difference from playing in your living room and doing things at your tempo…. Then when you get out into a community band and then you realize when it’s counted in, that tunes are faster than you thought.”
But Jacqui soon found she was learning loads from other players in the band.
“I sat next to one of the students who was about to leave school, and he was a really good player”, says Jacqui. “So sitting next to a better player than you are is brilliant, because you use your ears straight away. I couldn’t wait for Tuesday nights. It was so good”.
That was 18 years ago when Jacqui had a young family. She found it hard to fit it all in at times. ” But I was determined that this was my thing. I wasn’t going to let go once I’d found it,” says Jacqui.
Man, I love that determination that Jacqui had, even with a young family to follow through, and get the most out of that community band experience. Because it helped her playing, but it also connected her with a bunch of musicians. And in fact, it was one of those connections that led to the next chapter of the story. Check this out.
Starting on baritone sax
Jacqui was playing in a saxophone quartet, and the baritone sax player decided to retire from playing. “So he just said to me, ‘why don’t you just have a blow on it? …and if you want it, buy it. And if you find six months down the line that you don’t like it, put it on eBay’.”
Jacqui decided to give the baritone a try. “This battered case arrived, and I got this great big thing out” says Jacqui. “And I thought I’d never to get to grips with it…. But I started playing it. And I instantly fell in love with the tone of it and the great big rich notes that you can get out of it.”
So Jacqui bought the baritone, and started playing it. And this opened up another opportunity for her.
“My friend told me that the Merseyside Police Band were looking for a baritone sax player. “I went along thinking… I’m probably not good enough,” says Jacqui.
But with her previous band experience, the musical director offered Jacqui the opportunity to play.
Quite soon though, Jacqui realised her baritone sax might not be the right instrument for this band. “It didn’t have a low A, because it was quite old, and it was probably a little bit too funky for that type of music,” explains Jacqui.
Around this time, the COVID-19 pandemic caused band rehearsals and performances to stop.
However, Jacqui had already made some big changes in her life. Jacqui had quit her job to set up her own Community interest Company called The Power of Music, to work with people with dementia and recovering from stroke.
All this too went on hold because of the pandemic, so Jacqui went to work for the National Health Service. She decided to save up to buy a better bari sax. “I set my sights on the Yanagisawa Bronze Body BW02 – it’s a beautiful saxophone,” says Jacqui.
Now we get to the point where the really interesting thing is about to happen. Because now after Covid, Jacqui has got this amazing bari saxophone. And she gets a fantastic opportunity to go and play with a band that’s a real challenge.
Joining a Community Big Band
Jacqui was asked to “dep” with a Community Big Band in Preston. “It’s a community big band that does the odd gig, but they’re really good. There are some really good musicians in that band,” explains Jacqui.
Even for an experienced musician like Jacqui, sitting in with a band you don’t know, with music you don’t know, can be quite intimidating. I asked Jacqui how she felt when she got this chance.
“I have to admit, when I was driving there I was thinking ‘why did I agree to this?‘ I had no idea what I’d let myself in for. I’d not played in a big band on baritone. I had played in a concert band, but not a big band.”
But Jacqui didn’t need to worry. “They were so welcoming and the sax section in particular were really lovely,” says Jacqui. “And the guy who leads the band said ‘just relax, we’re just glad that you’re here. And that you’re helping us out.'”
This really helped Jacqui to feel less nervous. “I thought about that. I thought ‘I am here and I am helping out. So I will play to the best of my ability, but if I do make mistakes …then I’m doing it for the right reason. I’m going wrong for the right reason, because I’m here to try and help and fill a seat.'”
What Jacqui says here is really important. If you’ve never taken that first step of going to play in a Community band or any sort of public group, it can be intimidating. But it’s easy to overthink that process, rather than just getting in there and going for it and learning on the way.
We talked about this in a Sax School masterclass recently with Mark Morley-Fletcher, which Jacqui found useful in changing her approach to this situation.
“Now my attitude is I’m here to do the best I can. And I’m here to enjoy myself,” says Jacqui. “Because if you’re not enjoying the process, then why are you doing it?”
Jacqui has learned to value the experience every time she plays with a band. “I’ve realized now every single time I’ve sat in a chair in a band, whether I’ve played well or not so well, I have come away and I have learned something. Maybe I’ve learned something that I can’t do, so I need to go away and address that. Or I’ve…played something well that I didn’t know [I could do]….So that’s what it’s all about. You’re not going to learn overnight. It takes time.”
A valuable lesson
Now, That’s why I wanted to share this story with you today. Because that is such an important thing for all of us to remember.
Every time we go and we play with a new bunch of musicians, we are learning and we are growing as people and growing as musicians. So it’s such a great opportunity for us and I encourage you to make sure you take it.
How Jacqui started her own band
Before we finish up, I did promise that we’d get back to Jacqui’s own band because it’s a really interesting story.
It’s quite an unusual story. And a lot of people wouldn’t have taken this opportunity if it turned up. But as we’re finding out, Jacqui is a pretty remarkable person. So check out how she got started with her band.
“So a few years ago when I was playing in one of the big bands, there was a tenor player who was retiring. He had a load of music in his attic for a small combo band,” explains Jacqui. “And he said, ‘I want to give it to you and I want you to promise me you’ll start your band.’ … Anyway, I made the promise that if he gave me the music I would do that.”
Fast forward, and Jacqui and her band are really busy with gig bookings.
“We rehearse every Thursday because we’ve got a residential. So once a month we play on, on the third, either Saturday or Sunday, of the month. …We’ve got a wedding on the 3rd of June. We’ve just done the Coronation. Once we go out and play somewhere, we get booked again,” says Jacqui.
I think that’s amazing. And I’m curious to know – if somebody handed you a whole bunch of music, would you go ahead and set up a band?
I think what Jacqui’s doing is brilliant. And there’s so much stuff in this session today that we can take away and put into action in our playing. Particularly though, I want you to think about how community bands are so valuable to your development as a player.
Also, just a reminder that Jacqui is a member of Sax School. And she’s using the resources, the lessons, and the support from the tutors inside Sax School to help her develop her playing, even though she’s already out playing gigs with and running her own band.
So wherever you are in your journey – whether you’re just getting started on saxophone or whether you like Jacqui, you are already playing in lots of different bands – come and see what we’re doing at Sax School. Because there are so many great things in there that’ll just help you to move up to the next level.
Right now you can get started with a 14 day free trial – click here to find out more.