The Little Saxophonist

Ashely Adams is a Cool Cities Intern in Benton Harbor, which is also a City of Promise.

Leaning back against the table, I coated myself in another layer of my SPF seventy sunscreen, though the sun still managed to turn my skin a healthy pink color. The Benton Harbor Children’s Art Fair was in full swing, children and adults alike enjoyed the perfect July Saturday. I was working the Instrument Petting Zoo and taking full opportunity of the momentary lull in traffic to wipe off the collection of woodwinds and brass instruments at my station.

I started on the trombone, certainly a fun instrument to play around with, though the slide had quite the potential to injure an unaware passerby. Luckily, after four years of marching band, I had become skilled enough in dodging instruments and managed to avoid getting smacked around. I moved on to the trumpet, recorders, slide whistle, flute (an instrument that after roughly ten years of band experience I still can’t get a squeak out of), and finishing with the alto saxophone.

As I finished cleaning off the mouthpiece on the sax, a young girl, no older than nine or ten, approached the table. She asked, “Can I play that?”

I smiled and, of course, obliged. While I loved showing off all the instruments to the kids, I always felt a little bit more glee at those who tried the saxophone. After all, it was my instrument of choice.

I slipped the neck strap over her head, instructing her how to hook it into the sax and how to hold it. Biting into my thumb, I showed her how to place her mouth over the mouthpiece. She puffed into the instrument and almost immediately got a sound out. Quite an impressive feat! I openly admitted that I barely was able to make a sound on my first try, and what I did make was best compared to a dying moose. She laughed, though wore out quickly from holding the saxophone and propped it up on the table, continuing to mash buttons. I laughed a bit, not realizing how heavy the sax could be for the kids. I had long since switched to the baritone saxophone, a behemoth of an instrument I loved to play (and for anyone who’s seen my small, five-foot frame marching it, that is a hilarious sight to behold). It was certainly nostalgic to be reminded where I came from, especially when I taught the girl how to play “Hot Cross Buns”.

After playing a rough, though very enthusiastic rendition of the song, the girl exclaimed, “This is great! I want to learn to play it!”

She ran off and returned three more times that day to play “Hot Cross Buns”. The last time she came, she told me how her auntie had signed her up for lessons.

At the end of the day, even after hours of heat and sun, I couldn’t help but feel happy that I was able to help a girl find music and hope that it had the same positive impact it had on me.

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