Most of my saxophone colleagues are gathered in Scotland this week for the World Saxophone Congress – an international gathering of saxophonists that occurs every three years in a different country. Those of us not there are fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) experiencing it through social media. Lots of photos, travel updates and beer and scotch status updates are blowing up our newsfeeds, and updates about the performances are beginning to stream in.
We absent American saxophonists spent the better part of last night aligning ourselves with one another through a Facebook status by Tim McAllister that described his feeling of abandonment as a rapture. This public acknowledgement that maybe we were not where we were supposed to be resonated instantly with many of us; we jumped in eagerly with comments to expel some energy and form a community. It continues this morning and I won’t be surprised if this thread is kept alive until the WSC is over. Impromptu gatherings were suggested and comments were made about upcoming visits occurring between small groups of our Left Behind community. Heck, I reached out to people to plan some visits that I know I wouldn’t have planned otherwise. All in the name of community and taking in the spirit of the moment.
Arno Bornkamp has been tweeting his history of performances at past WSCs. One of them reminded me of the 2000 WSC in Montreal when he set off a revolution, as he described. In a packed 1,000-seat concert hall, Arno walked out alone onto an empty stage built for a full orchestra, tenor saxophone in one hand, boombox in the other, placed the boombox on a chair and proceeded to perform “Grab It!” by JacobTV.
The piece has since become an anthem and I’m certain it’s secured JacobTV’s retirement. It is also the reason I pursued study with Arno Bornkamp in Holland the following year – a year that so deeply changed my relationship to performing, teaching and living. (Steve Mauk actually planted the seed to apply for a Fulbright during our carpool home from the Montreal WSC, at which point I said the person I must study with is Arno Bornkamp. One month later I received a phone call from Arno, expressing interest in hearing a recording. One year later, I moved to Amsterdam.)
Here’s the deal though: that concert was supposed to have been a full orchestra concert with soloists. Altogether different music. The orchestra canceled and the soloists had to act quickly to program something else. We weren’t supposed to have seen that performance in that setting! And if that hadn’t happened, our saxophone world and my own musical training and life experiences would be vastly different. I lose my breath at the thought of what my life would be missing if I hadn’t lived in Amsterdam, Holland for a year, studying with Arno, not to mention how my close association with JacobTV would have never been.
I wonder in this week what unexpected events or chance happenings will change the worlds of those at the WSC in Scotland, as well as for those of us Left Behind. What I do know is this: every day brings forward encounters that can change our world as we know it. The trick is embracing with openness and awareness everything that crosses our individual paths so that we feel, process, and use those experiences to become better and more aligned with our potential.
Hang out with people other than those you know well. Pursue deeper conversations. Compliment performers with something more detailed and personal than “you sounded great.” Show your gratitude. Perform like it’s your last performance. And for God’s sake, embrace change, even when you cannot yet see the ultimate reason for it. Easier said than done, but boy it’s powerful when it strikes. Kind of like that magical moment on stage when there is no barrier between your physical self and the music.
I know I’m thinking a lot bigger and my eyes are more wide open because of the World Saxophone Congress, even though I’m not in Scotland to celebrate with everyone. Raising a glass of scotch to Arno Bornkamp and Steve Mauk for changing my world so dramatically in July 2000. Raising another glass to Tim McAllister for capturing what we’re feeling like back here, which on second thought isn’t so bad.