I'm starting a band in NYC. Join me 🎷
I'm looking for saxophonists and brass players, but anything in a marching band is welcome. Let's make music and have the best time of our lives.
Anyone who’s spent time around me consistently for the past couple of years knows that I’ve wanted to start a band: a group of 3-5+ horns (saxophonists and brass players particularly) to play fun pop and musical covers to the delight of crowds all around These Five Boroughs.
In my whole life, hardly any sensation rivals playing music with others, for others. It’s the thrill of performance, the achievement of musicality, and the pure synesthesia of sound and sensation.
If you’re a former marching band kid, I’m especially talking to you here.
But I haven’t played my instrument in years, you say
Whenever I tell people I play the saxophone, the most common response from my interlocutor is some version of: “Cool, I used to pay the [instrument].” They played in high school, probably dedicated an immense amount of time to it…and then stopped.
I get it. I did the same thing. From fifth grade through early college, the alto saxophone was a significant part of my life. I didn’t say "I play the alto saxophone." To the confusion of the non-initiated, I simply stated, "I'm an alto." Because in some musical cultures, you are an instrument. When you hold your instrument, it falls into a relaxed position in your hands and against your body that looks natural, but could never be accomplished by a novice even with deliberate effort.
It is an extension of your hands and fingers, whose dexterity and musculature have co-evolved to favor a specific set of keys. Your nervous system, like your breath, is in direct symbiosis with your instrument. There is no consciously detectable gap between thinking “I will play a G” and adjusting your mouth and hands to render the note. There really isn’t even a conscious thought “to play the G.” You just see a note on the page, and it is already happening.
My musical identity was intrinsic, not attendant, to my soul. I marched competitively, I played in any group that would have me, and I never realized that I was doing something as essential as breathing: playing music with my people—being an alto among other instruments.
But when you can't breathe, you notice immediately. When I stopped playing music, the warning signs were drowned out in the overwhelming noise of a rigorous bachelor's degree and growing up. Like a love that grows cold slowly, I gave up something glorious without resistance or full awareness. I lived for years without realizing that I'd condemned an integral part of myself to sepulchral disregard.
When I picked my alto back up after moving to New York, I did so out of curiosity and for something to do. I truly didn't remember what being an alto was, otherwise my resumption would have been driven by the wild, clawing desperation of that long-entombed part of me seeking restoration.
But when I started playing, I was made whole again. In a way I never expected, and with a depth of emotion that shocked me. It was almost a version of what I suspect recovered amnesiacs feel when they suddenly recognize the face of a loved one—and can't believe they ever possessed the capacity to forget.
It felt like home.
If you haven’t played your instrument in years, this is the only way I know how to tell you: pick it back up. You have forgotten what that once-constant companion feels like, but your breath, your hands, and your body have not. It still lives within you.
What does it mean to be in a band with me?
Well, you should probably feel good about what you read above. Maybe challenged a little. It should speak to you in some way, either because something long-dormant within you moved for the first time in a while, or because you have walked a similar path. You should want to have an amazingly fun time, and you should want to delight people with what you perform.
You should have a moment when you hear the chorus of this. Go look up the albums of college marching bands on Spotify. Let the spirit move you.
When I couldn’t perform with others during the pandemic, I made a ton of quartets with myself on Instagram (mostly using my electric sax):
But I think that part of my life is over, you say
Alright, look. It could be. But I don’t think it is. I think you’re wrong; I really do.
Let’s look at this from a different angle: you probably encountered music in elementary and high school, when you had an environment and peer group that provided immense amounts of external support to your music. It’s easy to play when you have band class, or marching band practice, and a pre-built band of people to join that someone else runs.
And even if you did ascend to one of the heights of human emotion—having a crowd go wild at a state fair after killing a marching band show, or whatever your version of that was—you probably learned an instrument that's hard to play throughout life.
Guitar, piano, and some other instruments are great for parties, and are really easy to sing along with. They are the musical version of life sports. But other instruments, like saxophones and trumpets,are not like this! Witness: I put my sax down for a while.
So if you used to play something, consider: your experience of it as an adult can be completely different from your law-mandated school days.
Not only do you get to pick the music you play now, you get to put together the whole of its presentation: costumes, your performer's affect, your choice of venue and audience, and more. You are in control of your showmanship.
If you returned to anything in adult life that you first experienced in school, and, being an adult, had a far better go of it (for me, this was almost everything), I invite you to add music to that list. Summer is a particularly great time to do it. And also, everyone wants to date a musician.
What music I want to play, specifically
Don’t Stop Me Now
In the Dark of the Night, especially if we have a baritone saxophone
Seven Nation Army
Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)
Poker Face, and all early Gaga
Club remixes of almost any song to make them faster and punchier
The very occasional song like Lakmé’s “Flower Duet” that just hits
What do you get when you mix pep band, marching band, drag queen bops, club bass, and a sense of the sublime? My performer’s sensibility, and maybe yours too. I’m here for a goddamn good time.
Bands are more administrivia than most people expect, but not more than I expect
Where do you get the music arranged? Do you print it out? Who gets what part? Are there folders? Where are we meeting to practice? How do we pick when and where to play? Is there a uniform? Who pays for all of this? What if my reed broke? Are we recording this? Do we need an Instagram or a TikTok?
Even for small bands, there’s an unavoidable amount of overhead.
But I already know how to do all that, I have checklists, and I’ll help you along. Don’t worry about it, but do expect it.
Music in general is a composite skill, and so is sustaining a band.
But if enough people respond to this that I can create a marching band, I will do it.