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I was just reading a thread that recommended that a young player get "The Art of Playing Saxophone" by Larry Teal. It reminded me of the State Solo & Ensemble Festival in Michigan in 1975 when I was a sophomore in High school. Mr. Teal was my judge when I played Tenor Sax. He was tough. He gave me an overall score of 84, 85+ was proficiency, and it even one number was changed down from a 4 to a 5 in the scoring (you could se he wrote over it). I was pretty disappointed. It did drive me to get better and work harder. By my Senior year I was the top scoring Alto Sax player at the festival earning a proficiency III. ....and while I switched from music to business in college and never became a professional player, I still play today. Now mostly in a Christian praise band (and more EWI now then Sax).

Anyone else know or have any experience with Mr. Teal?
 

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I had a LT tenor mouthpiece once and "moved it on". My understanding is he was a significant pedagogue.

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I had the same teacher (Merle Johnston) as Teal, but probably not at the same time (1958). Not very personal, but possibly similarly influenced?
 

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That's... amazing! If you'd be inclined to tell us more about Merle Johnston I for one would be all ears.
Merle and my father played music together in New York in the 1920s/30s. My father had to drop out of being a professional musician due to health (cancer and TB). He survived by moving first to Arizona (dry up the TB) then California. Merle had also moved to California, but I think it had more to do with his marriage break up (1940s?). Didn't matter that he was starting all over as he was thought of as the best teacher at that time and had lots of (then) famous students and those who would become well known. I never met any of his other students. My father, as a keyboard player, encouraged his kids to all learn piano. I had short fat fingers so wasn't particularly suited...I tried for a few years, but it just wasn't to be. In the mid 50s (at elementary school) I was encouraged to take up clarinet for the "school orchestra" and found it relatively easy.

A year or two later my father had this great idea of sending me to Merle. By this time Merle was not in good shape. The style of music he taught was past it's prime and he didn't have that many students. Merle was a diabetic and had lost one leg. He lived and worked in a hole in the wall shop on Melrose Avenue close to Western Avenue near downtown Los Angeles. It was a grey ugly part of town. I was 12 years old. The shop was dingy and full of electronic gear and crappy appliances (toasters, vacuum cleaners, etc.) that he would fix for people. You could barely move in there. It smelled like a wet junk shop and "old people". Merle had never taught a beginner or young person. My father thought he was doing both me and Merle a favor. This put both of us in a very difficult position. My dad bought me a workable but very cheap used Conn alto from somebody from the local musician's union (maybe cost $50?). Merle was (I think) born in the late 19th century, so his recollection of how to teach young people was to have a cane and whack them when they got something wrong. I doubt that he used this on any of his adult pupils! He swore a lot and never called me by name...I was "kido" to him.

It was obvious that Merle was a very intelligent guy, but very much in a state of deterioration and in a bad place. He was very proud of his successful pupils and (I guess) hoped to be proud of me some day. I did the exercises and learned, but it was a struggle for both of us. Eventually after less than two years it was getting to be too much and I had found a new instrument that I wanted to play...the oboe! I had a kind and gentle teacher for oboe and found that I just couldn't keep gong to Merle even though I had learned a lot. My interest was primarily in "Classical" music and I had little interest in "Big Band" or earlier styles that were what Merle knew and taught. I played sax in High School bands, but not the sort of music I wanted to play. Jazz was at its apex at that time (early 1960s). Some years later I worked on my own to be able to play by ear (instead of just reading), but always had that background of teaching from Merle that gave me "grounding".
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I was just reading a thread that recommended that a young player get "The Art of Playing Saxophone" by Larry Teal. It reminded me of the State Solo & Ensemble Festival in Michigan in 1975 when I was a sophomore in High school. Mr. Teal was my judge when I played Tenor Sax. He was tough. He gave me an overall score of 84, 85+ was proficiency, and it even one number was changed down from a 4 to a 5 in the scoring (you could se he wrote over it). I was pretty disappointed. It did drive me to get better and work harder. By my Senior year I was the top scoring Alto Sax player at the festival earning a proficiency III. ....and while I switched from music to business in college and never became a professional player, I still play today. Now mostly in a Christian praise band (and more EWI now then Sax).

Anyone else know or have any experience with Mr. Teal?
Did not know about the Bio written by his wife. Thanks for the heads up.
 

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Merle and my father played music together in New York in the 1920s/30s. My father had to drop out of being a professional musician due to health (cancer and TB). He survived by moving first to Arizona (dry up the TB) then California. Merle had also moved to California, but I think it had more to do with his marriage break up (1940s?). Didn't matter that he was starting all over as he was thought of as the best teacher at that time and had lots of (then) famous students and those who would become well known. I never met any of his other students. My father, as a keyboard player, encouraged his kids to all learn piano. I had short fat fingers so wasn't particularly suited...I tried for a few years, but it just wasn't to be. In the mid 50s (at elementary school) I was encouraged to take up clarinet for the "school orchestra" and found it relatively easy.

A year or two later my father had this great idea of sending me to Merle. By this time Merle was not in good shape. The style of music he taught was past it's prime and he didn't have that many students. Merle was a diabetic and had lost one leg. He lived and worked in a hole in the wall shop on Melrose Avenue close to Western Avenue near downtown Los Angeles. It was a grey ugly part of town. I was 12 years old. The shop was dingy and full of electronic gear and crappy appliances (toasters, vacuum cleaners, etc.) that he would fix for people. You could barely move in there. It smelled like a wet junk shop and "old people". Merle had never taught a beginner or young person. My father thought he was doing both me and Merle a favor. This put both of us in a very difficult position. My dad bought me a workable but very cheap used Conn alto from somebody from the local musician's union (maybe cost $50?). Merle was (I think) born in the late 19th century, so his recollection of how to teach young people was to have a cane and whack them when they got something wrong. I doubt that he used this on any of his adult pupils! He swore a lot and never called me by name...I was "kido" to him.

It was obvious that Merle was a very intelligent guy, but very much in a state of deterioration and in a bad place. He was very proud of his successful pupils and (I guess) hoped to be proud of me some day. I did the exercises and learned, but it was a struggle for both of us. Eventually after less than two years it was getting to be too much and I had found a new instrument that I wanted to play...the oboe! I had a kind and gentle teacher for oboe and found that I just couldn't keep gong to Merle even though I had learned a lot. My interest was primarily in "Classical" music and I had little interest in "Big Band" or earlier styles that were what Merle knew and taught. I played sax in High School bands, but not the sort of music I wanted to play. Jazz was at its apex at that time (early 1960s). Some years later I worked on my own to be able to play by ear (instead of just reading), but always had that background of teaching from Merle that gave me "grounding".
Thanks for the info, I'm sorry it wasn't a better experience.
 

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Thanks for the info, I'm sorry it wasn't a better experience.
Thanks Rackety Sax.
It was what it was. I learned. It also gave me a view into what life can be like for someone who was at one time the top pro in New York. I didn't completely learn that lesson until I was a pro (singer) and working on cruise ships. It was only the ship that was going somewhere, not me! Gave it up and went back to University studying science. I still love science, music and the arts and keep all three in my life in varying proportions.
 
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