Kenneth Fischer, saxophonist, teacher, and friend

One of my former teachers, Dr. Kenneth Fischer, passed away yesterday, after a brief illness.

Dr. Fischer was a protégé of Eugene Rousseau, and, over the past 30 years at the University of Georgia, established himself as a major force in classical saxophone performance and teaching. His close associations with composers like the late Jindřich Feld fueled an influx of new compositions for the instrument. He was active and involved with the World Saxophone Congress and the North American Saxophone Alliance, and was making plans to host the latter’s 2010 conference.

Read the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music announcement here.

Here are a few things that I learned from Dr. Fischer.

Some things about saxophone playing:

  • You shouldn’t have to strain for the altissimo notes. Relax and let them come.
  • Every note is part of a larger musical gesture. Every note.
  • There’s something to be said for keeping the fingers close to the keys and closing them with a feather touch, but it’s also worth exploring larger, more aggressive movements for fingering. Saxophone keys aren’t flute keys.
  • Every sound is interesting and beautiful and musical. If the composer calls for key pops or multiphonics or flutter tonguing, commit to making those sounds really work musically. Practice them like you mean it.
  • Sometimes, what you really need is to struggle with a piece that’s way over your head. Other times, what you really need is to play a piece that you can absolutely nail. Do some of each.
  • A pleasing tone doesn’t mean much without good pitch and rhythm. Don’t just work on fundamentals, work on all the fundamentals.
  • One of Dr. Fischer’s favorite things to say to a student after a recital was, “That was terrific! But next time, use a reed.” It was a joke. Or was it?

Some things not about saxophone playing:

  • Relationships with other people are more important than anything, even music.
  • Take time to talk to people. Hear their stories, and share yours. Everything else can wait.
  • Every birthday deserves a celebration, complete with singing and cake.

Dr. Kenneth Fischer

Go Fightin’ Okra

I am pleased to announce that this fall I will be joining the faculty of the Delta State University Department of Music. DSU is located in Cleveland, Mississippi, in the beautiful and historic Mississippi Delta region.

DSU Logo

I had the privilege of visiting the DSU campus last month, and fell in love with the charming campus, the outstanding music faculty, the state-of-the-art performance and recording facilities, and, of course, the bright and friendly students, for whom I got to present a performance and masterclass.

I’m looking forward to getting started at Delta State, where I will teach all of the reed instruments (oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone), woodwind methods, and other music courses. Classes start August 17th!

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Woodwind players on the web

For several years, I’ve maintained what I believe to be a fairly comprehensive list of woodwind doublers’ homepages. I’ve been scouring the web lately for the homepages of woodwind players of all kinds, and have put together several new lists from what I’ve found. Now you can browse lists of:

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New old blog posts

In order to try to keep things tidy around here, I’ve reorganized the site a bit (again). One thing that happened was that the old “articles” section disappeared and some of the old articles have turned retroactively into blog posts. The official start of the blog was May of 2008, but some of my old stuff (going back to 2001) can now be found there.

Here are a few highlights:

Also, don’t be shy about pointing out broken links, etc., while the dust is settling around here. Thanks!

Trade in your old reeds for new Ricos, part II

In March I blogged about this promotion from Rico reeds. I’m pleased to report that, after sending this motley crew of rejects off to Rico…


…I got these in the mail, at absolutely no charge.


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200+ woodwind doublers’ websites

I just finished updating my list of woodwind doublers on the web, which as of right now lists just over 200 valid websites (201, to be precise).

I am happy to include on the list woodwind doublers of any skill level, as long as their website gives some indication of their inclination toward multiple woodwind instruments.

Check out the list, and click the email link if you want your site included or know of one I’ve missed.

Trade in your old reeds for new Ricos

This is an interesting promotion from Rico Reeds. Send in 10 of your rejected non-Rico reeds and get 10 Ricos of your choice, either a box of 10 or, it seems, possibly two boxes of 5. I have claimed my mail-in coupon online and will be sending off some reeds shortly. I considered waiting until the deal was done before blogging it, but you have to obtain your coupon by April 6, so I figured it was worth giving the early heads-up.

I haven’t used any Rico products in a while, but I’ve got no shortage of rejects among my current favorite brands, so it seems worthwhile to get some freebies to try out.

free Rico reeds

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Flutist spotlight: Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III

Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III, who heroically piloted US Airways Flight 1549 to a safe emergency landing in the Hudson river, was first-chair flutist in his high school marching band, according to the New York Times.

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Free download: New orchestration of the Creston saxophone sonata

Italian pianist Marco Ciccone has done a new orchestral transcription of the Paul Creston saxophone sonata. I haven’t heard it, but I got email from Mr. Ciccone about it and thought I would pass the word along.

The score and parts (you have to provide your own saxophone part) are available here in PDF format, presumably for a limited time, as the arrangement is slated to be published soon. [Update: looks like this is no longer available.] According to the “warning” document, there are some restrictions on performances made with the free parts, but in any case it seems worthwhile to download the score and check it out. Instrumentation is eight woodwinds, five brass, two percussion, strings, and, of course, alto saxophone solo.