Sliding Into a Musical Career

Posted 26 March 2012 12:00 AM by Ronald G. Vigue

So there I was, in the fourth grade, being handed a musical instrument, made of brass with a long slide. It looked pretty and complicated or perhaps pretty complicated? At that time, I wasn’t sure which. For sure, it wasn’t the one I wanted to play. I wanted the alto saxophone. Perhaps the single, most coolest instrument in the world!

If I remember correctly, my decision to pursue the saxophone had nothing to do with anything musical, but more with how it could help me impress the fourth-grade girls in my elementary school. My teacher Mr. Albright, unfortunately had other ideas for me - the trombone.

Many of my boy classmates were thinking in the same way I was about the saxophone, and the school band had way too many. So alas, there I was staring at an instrument that metaphorically could be described as the “elephant” in the room. Particularly with that slide. That darn slide.

In a strange way, that slide was the only reason Mr. Albright’s persuasion worked at all. It was, in a way, mesmerizing. And as I began to improvise with the instrument, suddenly the trombone seemed not so bad. Mr. Albright showed me how to buzz my lips and make a sound, something I was able to do right away. “A natural!” he said.

But still, I hesitated. To me it sounded “flat”, much like my chances in becoming the next great saxophonist. John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, and Ronald Vigue! It sounded so right to me. But the more I played the trombone, the more my thoughts about the woodwinds went away. So after deliberating for a few tense moments, the die was cast. I would be an official member of the low brass.

What I did not realize at the age of 8, was that it didn’t matter what instrument I chose. What mattered was that I was beginning my musical existence. I was entering into a world that would enhance my life in immeasurable ways. Being present with live music changes your perspective for the better. Whether its performing or just listening in the Citi Wang Theatre. As a fourth-grader, I never would have guessed that I was in for the years of musical experiences that I have had. From being a performer myself, to leading musical organizations, to being a fundraiser at Citi Performing Arts Center, I have been blessed with unique opportunities for experiencing the power of music in a very intimate way. I have been close to fine music-making all my life, as a listener, as a composer and as an arts administrator. The extraordinary impact of those experiences on my view of the world is insurmountable. All because of that darn slide.

Ronald G. Vigue, Associate Director of Development at Citi Performing Arts Center, is also an award-winning composer, having been honored by the American Music Center, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and others for his work.

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