Sixty saxophone players just travelled from all over Europe to come and spend a couple of days with me and the Sax School team.
And many of these sax players had never played with another saxophone player at all -ever! So this was our annual Sax School Weekender event, and it was packed with learning and playing and fun, and a few surprises too. but I’ll tell you a bit about that later on.
Now I know not all of you could join us for the Weekender, so I thought it would be fun to look behind the scenes and show you what goes on at a Sax School Weekender event. Plus there are some takeaways that my team and I got from running this event that I’d love to share with you too. So, let’s get stuck in.
If we haven’t met before, my name’s Nigel, and for the past 10 years, I’ve helped thousands and thousands of sax players all around the world through my lessons at Sax School.
What is the Weekender?
Now, there’s a good reason why we run our Weekender events. And that’s because, although it’s great to learn online at your own pace at home, there’s nothing better than connecting in real life with other saxophone players. It’s about coming together to play music and learn from each other.
Plus the other fantastic thing about these events is that there are so many amazing friendships that are formed. These bonds last for years and years. And it’s just so wonderful to connect with people who are going through the same journey that you are.
So this year at the Weekender, we had members join us from Slovenia, Italy, France, Germany, and Ireland. And, of course, the UK, where we ran the event up in Yorkshire.
It’s pretty overwhelming, if I’m honest, getting everybody together. Everyone was excited, and, of course, a little bit nervous. So we kicked things off with a drinks reception on the first day, and that’s when this happened.
No – I didn’t know this was going to happen, and if I’m honest, it was a little bit embarrassing, but it was so funny. And I can’t believe those members spent all that time putting together the rap and the performance. Honestly, it’s just amazing.
So, that’s one of the cool things about this event. For a lot of people, they’re getting to meet each other for the very first time, even though they’ve connected online. But for others like Bev and Andi and the other ladies doing the rap, this was a chance to get back together and rekindle that friendship that they’ve been building for years inside Sax School.
And in fact, that brings me to my first big takeaway from this event.
Take Away #1: The Power of Community
If you’ve been watching my channel for a while, you’ll know that I’m a massive fan of learning online. I mean, That’s what I do, and our whole business is about helping people online. And online learning is brilliant.
But there’s just no substitute for also doing in-person events, and that sense of community that happens when you’ve got a whole bunch of sax players who are going through the same journey as you, in the same room.
It’s just priceless. And it’s not just what you learn at an event like this. It’s the connections that you make with other people. So it’s all those little interactions that happen in amongst all of the learning. That is so important.
So whether it’s with Sax School or with something else that’s close to you, if you get a chance to go and attend an in-person event like this, I recommend it. It’s just such a great thing to do for your saxophone playing.
What we covered
So there were three of us from the Sax School Tutor team at the event – myself, Chris Camm, and Joel Purnell. We did a whole range of sessions with the members. They ranged from big group sessions with everybody in one room, down to small group sessions where we could give individual help.
And the vibe was just amazing because we had the more experienced players helping the newer players, so everyone felt comfortable and all learned together. It was fantastic.
We also did a bunch of other sessions over the two days. Selmer brought in a bunch of their Supreme saxophones for people to try. And we had British saxophone maker and designer Dave Walker come and do a talk about how he designs and builds saxophones. That was cool.
But the coolest part of the two days was seeing how quickly all of the members adapted to being in this environment. Remember I said at the start, that a lot of these people have never played with another saxophone player before.
Take Away #2: Structured Learning Rocks!
So that brings me to the second big takeaway from The Weekender. And that’s all about how structured learning makes such a big difference.
So here’s the thing. We had 60 people in a room together who were from different levels, different backgrounds, and from different countries. But they all spoke the same language of saxophone.
They knew how to communicate with each other – the notes, how to play in tune, understanding rhythms, all of these foundational skills. And that meant that immediately they could connect.
How does that even happen?
Well, I can tell you how. It’s all about structured learning.
Now, it’s so tempting to just try and work it out yourself on YouTube and try to piece together how to play an instrument. But, if you can go through a structured series of courses and lessons, then you’ll get a much better foundation in your playing.
And that’s going to help you when you find yourself in a situation with lots of other sax players, like our Sax School Weekender.
So whether you’re learning with us at Sax School, or somewhere else, I encourage you to find somewhere that’s got a real structure, or a pathway for how you learn. That way, all the blanks are filled in. And you’ll be ready to be confident playing with other people.
But I have to say, the really exciting part of our Weekender happened later on the Saturday night.
So we’d spent the day working on ensemble pieces, but we’d also had some sessions on improvising. We started right at the basics, and then we did some more advanced tactics too. But most importantly, we got our members to start improvising.
For some of them, it was their first time improvising in fact. And they got a chance to do it in a big group.
How would you feel if that was you? I bet you’d be a bit nervous. I would be too.
But it was amazing how much more confident our members all became once they had some foundational skills. They had learned some tactics, and had some experience in applying those tactics in a safe environment with all of the other Weekender attendees.
So the big climax for the first day was our Weekender Jam that happened on Saturday night.
It was awesome. We brought in a real band. The tutors and I kicked off the night with a few numbers. And then we invited our members to come up and join the jam session and play through some tunes. It was so cool.
So this was a new experience for lots of our players there. But it was cool to see them putting into action the things that they’d learned during the day. To stand up in front of a whole room of other saxophone players, in front of a real band, is a big deal. So it was amazing to see them do it.
And for loads of our members, this was a real life goal moment. It’s something that always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity or maybe the confidence to do it.
So going through that process was a big ordeal and a massive achievement for them too. And that brings me to our next takeaway.
Take Away #3 – Be Brave
How confident would you be coming to something like The Weekender and standing up in front of 60 saxophone players with a live band and doing some improvising?
Most people would say they wouldn’t be confident to do that. And in fact, most of the people who came to The Weekender thought they were unsure about it at the start.
But just about all of them did stand up and do some improvising. And every single one of them that did, said it was the best experience ever, and they can’t wait to do it again.
So here’s the lesson. For just about everybody, standing up and playing in front of an audience is intimidating.
But if you get the opportunity to do it, you’ve got to embrace it and go for it. Because that experience honestly will help you to grow so much as a player. So taking an opportunity like this raises the bar of what you think is possible. And it removes that irrational fear that most of us have of getting up and playing in front of other people.
It’s a real game-changer. Do it if you get the chance.
So before we knew it, the jam session was over. But that wasn’t the end of the night, because our members carried on with their own jam session for hours afterwards.
Some of them got up and did DJ Sax numbers. We had dancing and all sorts of craziness. It was brilliant.
Take Away #3: Deep diving works!
So day two was packed with more small group sessions. And there were some big sessions too with deep dive masterclasses on rhythm and technique with Joel and Chris. They were brilliant.
But the next big takeaway hit me in one of my small group sessions. I had a whole group of new friends that only just met each other the day before. And I suddenly realized everyone was singing along as we were working through a piece in the session.
And it suddenly struck me how amazing that was. So here’s the beautiful thing.
It is great to go and maybe play in a community band or a local band.
But there’s something special that happens when you do a deep dive with a whole bunch of other sax players for at least a couple of days.
Because when you immerse yourself in saxophone and allow yourself to just go for it, and only think about saxophone, for a couple of days, all sorts of amazing things happen.
You open up your learning, you open up your expression, you make connections with other sax players, that just lasts forever. And it changes the way you think about saxophone. It’s hard to quantify. But there’s something that happens when you go deeper for a longer session with a group of people, that is just magic.
And so for me, the big takeaway was if you get a chance to do a deep dive session, where you’ve got multiple days, just focusing on saxophone, take that opportunity. Because it’s a special experience that’s going to stay with you for a long time. I loved it.
After the Weekender
So before we knew it, the Weekender was over and it was time for everybody to say goodbye.
And it’s never easy to say goodbye to new friends, but everybody had to go home. That’s what happens, right?
But I have to say, there was such a cool thing that happened when everybody did get back home.
Because I noticed that our Community was flooded with messages, with photos and videos from the Weekender. And that was cool and lovely to see.
But even better were the messages I saw from members saying that they now were ready to go and do things like joining a band. Or start doing some busking, or to attempt some more complicated music out of our lesson library.
John: I’ve enjoyed trying to get to grips with improvisation, and to be doing it live with people.
Bev: It’s improvisation. I’ve been putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. It’s taken away some of the scariness.
Darrell: The chance to actually play in a group. I’ve never played with anybody else ever.
Bev: To play with other people, and also to meet other people who have the same passion.
Helen: The spirit of camaraderie here. I like playing with a larger group. So I’ll go home with a whole bunch of tips I know, but also some renewed friendships.
John: It pushed my abilities, it pushed my confidence.
Just that experience of seeing these sax players becoming so much more confident through the Weekender is amazing. And that’s the reason why we run these events.
Our 2024 Weekender: Tickets on sale now
Hey, just before I go, I want to let you know that we’ve just opened registration for our 2024 Weekender. It’s going to be in April 2024 here in the UK up in Yorkshire, and we’ve extended it to three full days.
It’s going to be incredible. If you’re able to attend and join us, I’d love to get to know you and meet you and help you at the Weekender.
Look for the link down below, but be quick, because we only have limited spaces on these events, and they do sell pretty quickly.
I hope we see you at the April 2024 Weekender!