For some reason or another, my youngest memory of recorded music is of a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on as soon as I had a job. I remember tearing off the cellophane and opening the tape case. I was beyond excited about the purchase. After blasting the tracks in my mother’s station wagon on the way home from the store, I quickly ejected the tape when we arrived. “Mom, I’ll stay up and do all the dishes if I can listen to the rest of this,” I pleaded with excitement. She agreed, and I spent the next hour washing the dishes with more enthusiasm than I have ever had for any chore before. It was supernatural. I didn’t know it then, but I was listening to masterpieces: harmonies, progressions, honest lyrics, and unforgettable melodies. I still remember all the lyrics to “409,” memorized that night in the kitchen.
In fourth grade the band conductor came into our classroom and gave a quick intro to a class that would forever change my focus and my life. I immediately choose to play the saxophone. Looking back I don’t think I had any real reason besides that it looked cool. It also spoke to me in a way that the other instruments failed to do. There was a sex appeal to the curve of the bell, and the few recordings I had heard of the instrument seemed to stand out in my limited memory of music. There’s a photo of me as a very young child, in the hospital with a cast on my left arm, and headphones over my ears. I have a grin that is indescribable and unreplicated. People often ask what I was listening to. To this day I have no idea, but perhaps they’re early recordings of John Coltrane or Alto Reed. I’ll never know the music, but I do know that picking up the saxophone was one of the better decisions of my life.