Educational Program

(Things to Discuss Ahead of Visit)


The Washington Saxophone Quartet (WSaxQ) has been playing for audiences of all ages for nearly 35 years, and these concerts have been heard on radio and television world-wide. On the quartet’s 1997 tour of China, members of the quartet were honored by a concert given by a large student saxophone ensemble in Beijing. This ensemble, the first student saxophone ensemble in China, was formed after the students heard a WSaxQ concert from a previous concert tour in 1995. WSaxQ relates to audiences of all ages because of an incredible wealth of experience in both the professional and educational fields. Members of the quartet have literally played around the world in various settings of jazz and classical music. In addition, members of WSaxQ have all taught in educational settings from elementary through university. The quartet has performed master classes and concerts for young people in the Caribbean, China, and the United States. As past or present members of the elite “special” military bands in Washington, D.C., the four saxophonists in WSaxQ have performed literally thousands of concerts for schools throughout the United States. This experience gives the quartet a rare insight into concerts and clinics for young people.

Program Descriptions Prior to any program, the quartet will provide this Program Guide with ideas to discuss, as well as a list of the pieces to be performed with composer information.

Elements of Music/Language of Music is a fun, interactive program that teaches students about three of the essentials of music: melody, rhythm, and harmony as well as the language of music, which researchers say may have preceded the spoken work. For the Elements: students participate throughout the program by singing and tapping, and a small group of students will perform with the quartet on one selection. By the end of the program, the students will not only know the meaning of these music elements, they will also be able to better understand the music in their lives. A multi-cultural approach is used with music from Ireland, Brazil, China, and the United States. The students will also be introduced to Scott Joplin, an African-American who became one of America’s most popular composers. They also get exposed to and learn about other composers in American and European traditions. This study guide (tailored as needed to meet the age group) is sent to the school several weeks in advance to enhance student participation during the program.The section-by section outline for The Elements includes music performed and program content:

1. Introduction – WSaxQ starts with a performance of J.S. Bach’s “Little Fugue in G minor,” which perfectly introduces each of the saxophones. Members of the quartet will be introduced and the program content will be explained. Then we perform Fascinatin’ Rhythm, by George Gershwin. Gershwin is an important name in American music and can be discussed ahead of time. Having the students learn some of his most famous pieces, such as “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Porgy and Bess” are very helpful.

2. Melody – With the use of a short, dramatization with a humorous twist, some dialogue with the students, and more audience participation, the term “melody” will be learned. Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) will be performed to demonstrate. This is an Irish melody and the Quartet will talk about this piece in that context, as well as the Melody.

3. Rhythm – Students will learn and clap the rhythm of a samba, and a small group of volunteers will be asked to play rhythm instruments while the quartet plays a movement from the South American Suite, by Lino Florenzo. It is a very impressive piece of music. Even those students not immediately participating, will be moving/dancing near their seats. Having the students learn the definition of a samba ahead of time is very helpful. Learning a little about various dance rhythms is also helpful.

4. Harmony – Students will listen to examples of harmony performed by the quartet. The Chinese folk song Jasmine will be used to demonstrate, both with and without the harmony. We use this piece of music because it has such a simple and beautiful melody and the harmony is very easy to hear, with all four instruments performing.

Because we have the soprano; alto; tenor; and baritone saxophones, we can demonstrate excellent examples of high and low notes. We also talk about China and our tours there, introduce the music in Chinese.

5. Conclusion – Members of the quartet will play and discuss all three elements and how they fit together in Something Doin’, a Rag by Scott Joplin. We also talk about Scott Joplin himself, a very important African-American who created a significant musical form. Any discussion ahead of time with students is very helpful, to reinforce his importance.

For the Language of Music, the students are guided through a process of listening and responding to a number of musical selections, each with individual feelings/emotions. We have found that students at various ages are able to hear that the music is very evocative and clearly expresses a particular emotional feeling. They are also able to articulate their descriptions of the various selections with great clarity.

(You don’t necessarily have to tell them the specifics ahead of time, but do tell them that music has the power to communicate.) It is always a pleasure to see their expressions to the music. Examples: “Laughing Saxophones”; “Adagio” by Samuel Barber; “Angry, Edgy, Music”; “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” from “Children’s Corner Suite by Claude Debussy; “Little Shepherd” by Claude Debussy.

The Language of Music is tailored for any age group.