Saxophone feast for SACM

08 May 2006

Mike Rossi in full flow at the UCT Sax Day.

In the 160-plus years since it was first introduced - back in the 1840s it was intended for use in orchestras and military bands - the saxophone has become one of the most beloved instruments around. "Also, the sound of South African jazz is largely represented by the saxophone and the way it is performed here," says Associate Professor Mike Rossi of the South African College of Music (SACM) at UCT.

With that kind of rep, the saxophone deserves a little attention. Which is exactly what the SACM gave it at its (first) Saxophone Day on April 22.

The event, says organiser Rossi, struck just the right, um, note.

The day drew saxophone fans young and old from near and far. Woodwind players travelled from Greyton and even Hilton College in KwaZulu-Natal to attend. They were joined by teachers and students from local community-based programmes and schools in Retreat, Athlone, Hugo Lambrechts, as well as counterparts from Rondebosch, SACS, Herschel, Westerford and Bergvliet schools.

There was plenty for enthusiasts to learn about the saxophone and other woodwind instruments. Workshops over the day-long programme covered everything from warm-up techniques and sound production to repair basics and reed making.

And, of course, no Saxophone Day is complete without actual performances. Among those to grace the event were students Susan McAlpine, Robyn Miller, Torstein Halvorsen (with Byron Howell) and Raven Hansmann. Other performers included Amakaoe, Imam Isaacs, Beth Buchanan from Herschel Girls School, a saxophone quartet performance by Saxcology, while Rossi - the SACM's resident woodwind and saxophone expert - helped out with SACM visitor Micu Narunsky's MMus recital.

Based on the success of the occasion, Rossi sees the Saxophone Day/Festival becoming a fixture on the SACM calendar.

"These types of events occur yearly throughout the US and Europe; sometimes there's a week devoted to a particular instrument," he says. "It would be great to have it as a yearly event which could turn into a festival and/or congress."

The event ran during Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) founded by Dr John Edward Hasse of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington in the US, a recent visitor to the college. The SACM Saxophone Day is now also included on the official JAM website, which receives over 100 000 hits each year.

The SACM thanks Paul Bothner Music, an important and very appreciated key sponsor of the day. The importer and retailer generously donated a R250 gift certificate, which a grandfather just so generously passed on to his shy grandson, another budding saxophonist.

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