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Lessons with Kurt

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“With 75% percent of my students, I’m glad to just hear a few right notes, and that usually isn’t the case,” Kurt, my private lesson teacher explains, “It’s rare I get to move on to ‘clear change to C#.’”
Graduating in early June, I take my fleeting amount of time each week with my saxophone private lesson teacher, Kurt Shafer, extremely seriously. After four years of a verbal butt-kicking to practice the time came for college auditions, so I practiced. Hours and hours and until my lips were almost bleeding, my reeds almost splintered, Kurt said to practice some more. He hounded me over technique, gave me horror stories of lessons in college… for a grade. Needless to say, it paid off, I got into the college of my choice, and other than my own initial motivation to listen, a lot of the success I attribute to him.
He hates both of my saxophones, but loves my sound on them. It is with these conflicting opinions that idolize him. Not simply for his sax prowess, but for his humble opinion of his abilities and his brutal honesty of his faults. He will compliment me if I do well, then follow up by raising the bar just a bit so I couldn’t wing it the next week’s lesson.
Not only a mentor, but a friend, four years of weekly lessons is a sort of bonding experience. Being the oldest of my siblings, I can compare my relationship to him as an older brother helping out the baby of the family, strict, but encouraging and helpful. Along with this big brother mentality is viewing Kurt as a look into my future, as I plan to start the route of music education in fall 2011.Walking to the practice room for a lesson and hearing an alto sax burning through different scales and articulation techniques is an intimidating reminder that one day I will be expected to perform as such. For now, though, I’ve still got a few more weeks of lessons before graduation, and then a saxophone recital that Kurt is putting on, to not so much show his teaching abilities, but to show all of our parents what exactly they’ve been paying for. After the recital though, I will finally have to say goodbye to Kurt, not only my hero, but my friend.





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