Thursday, September 1, 2005

Meet the Saxophone Section

At a recent concert, the Concord Band's saxophone section, left to right: Jerry Kriedberg (alto),
Gwenn O'Keeffe (alto), Judy Piermarini (tenor), Dave Southard (tenor) and Larry Rubin (baritone).

According to the Instrument Encyclopedia, the saxophone is a relatively young instrument, having been invented by Belgian manufacturer, Adolphe Sax, and exhibited to the world for the first time at the 1841 Brussels Exhibition. It is classified along with the clarinet as a single-reed woodwind, but is actually a hybrid, borrowing elements from both the clarinet and double-reed oboe. The saxophone was originally available in fourteen different sizes and keys. Currently, four sizes and keys of saxophone have been standardized — the soprano (B♭), the alto (E♭), the tenor (B♭), and the baritone (E♭) — see insert below.

All four members of the saxophone instrument family appear in Concord Band concerts. However, the three larger (lower-pitched) instruments are always scored by composers for concert band, while the soprano saxophone is used much less frequently. The saxophone and one other conventional concert band instrument are the only band instruments that are not normally also part of the symphony orchestra, though both are used occasionally. The other is the baritone horn, usually referred to as a tenor tuba when used in an orchestra. When the saxophone appears in the orchestral literature, it is intended to provide a sound that is unusual or special. In the concert band, the saxophone section is a mainstay, but it is special, nevertheless.

Which brings us to the five members of the Concord Band saxophone section. All five are excellent musicians. Four have played solos with the Band (as has the section as a whole), and the fifth, whose low-voiced instrument is rarely favored with the solo role, does double duty during the Band's summer season as announcer for all of our outdoor concerts.

All of the Concord Band saxophone players are accomplished musicians, but only one has a degree in music. Judy Piermarini was a music educator for a time, and now satisfies her need to make music by playing with the Concord Band and several professional groups. In addition to our former music teacher (who is now an element crucial to the smooth operation of the US Postal Service), we have in our saxophone section two members of the health community and two practitioners of the "hard" sciences: Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe is a board-certified pediatrician who has fallen (please pardon the pun) into pediatric emergency medicine over the years. Dr. Jerry Kriedberg is an independent psychologist with a specialty in neuropsychological testing and evaluation, affiliated with a number of local hospitals and human service agencies. Dr. Dave Southard is a computer scientist who specializes in avionics (flight displays and navigation systems) for general aviation (non-commercial, generally small, aircraft). Finally, our senior saxophonist/announcer is physicist Larry Rubin, who has been an MIT Visiting Scientist since retiring from the National Magnet Laboratory at MIT about a decade ago. These days he writes a column for the magazine Physics Today.

If you have a friend or relative who is a member of the Concord Band, you know all too well that in addition to weekly rehearsals and many hours of personal practice time, it takes an immense amount of non-musical effort to make the Band the success that it is. The members of the saxophone section have made — and continue to make — enormous contributions of this kind. We clearly do not have enough room to talk about all the things they do. You already know about Larry, the announcer. If you attended the Band's Holiday Pops in December, you know the kind of job Gwenn did as chairman. Have you ever visited the Concord Band website ( It is a virtual treasure trove of useful information about the Band and was initiated in 1995 and managed for five years by Dave Southard. Some believe that it's one of the finest websites associated with any community band organization, anywhere.

Jerry's special talent seems to be drawing a crowd. Somehow he got most of his old Dorchester neighborhood to buy tables at Pops. He probably just had to tell them that he was playing a solo. Finally, if you have ever given money to help run the Concord Band (and in the next and last paragraph of this story we're going to suggest that you do just that), then you received a handwritten thank-you note from Judy, who has also been involved with Pops and helped frequently to get newsletters like this one into envelopes and then into the mail.

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