Can you learn saxophone as an adult?
Steph Atkinson has powered through music exams to the highest level, and still had time to play in 3 different band line-ups on sax! Steph is our May 2021 Legend.
Steph started learning saxophone when her son quit playing his alto. “I thought, I can’t have a sax just sitting there, I might try and play it.”
Twelve years on, and Steph has achieved a huge amount on her saxophone. She’s completed all 8 Jazz grades on sax, as well as grade 5 in Popular Music Theory. She has even studied for 3 years for a graduate diploma in jazz at St Andrews University. “I need something to push me to practice,” says Steph.
As well as all that music study, Steph plays with several different bands, including a community big band, a soul band, and a function band!
“My favourite is the big band- I love being in the middle of the harmony,” says Steph. “The function band is easiest because I’m the only horn player. I don’t need to fit in with other people so I can play what I like, as long as the riffs are in the right places!”
It was after seeing an ad on Facebook that Steph took the plunge and auditioned to play in a function band. “The band sent me a list of the music they were working on. I spent a week trying to learn them and to find the riffs online. It was nerve-racking, but it worked out!” explains Steph.
Joining Sax School
Steph has been a member of Sax School for three years and is a great contributor to our community. For our March Transcription Challenge” Steph worked on “In a Mellow Tone” by Javon Jackson. Steph admits this was a huge challenge. “It took the whole month,” says Steph. “I’d set myself the challenge to improve my ear this year so I wanted to complete this – I know it’s really good for my learning but it took so long!”
Like many Sax School members, Steph is working on improvisation. She’s a member of an improv group, meeting online at the moment because of the pandemic.
Steph gets lots of opportunities to put her improvisation learning into practice, in the bands she plays with. “Some solos are improvised, but some are written out because they are the classic big band solos which people expect to hear…I play lead alto in the big band so I get lots of solos,” Steph explains.
Steph’s Tips for New Members of Sax School
- Focus on the music that you’re into. There’s everything in Sax School from jazz, to pop to classical – so choose to play the music you’re interested in.
- Play with other musicians as soon as possible – it’s the best way to learn. Don’t hold back because you think you’re not good enough!
We think Steph is a huge inspiration in everything she has achieved on her saxophone. Congratulations Steph!