A MUSICAL MID-LIFE CRISIS; It’s never too late! - Kamara Hennessey

A MUSICAL MID-LIFE CRISIS; It’s never too late! - Kamara Hennessey

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If someone had said to me 17 years ago that I would get involved in performing in a Community Concert Band, my reply probably would have been “in your dreams”.  But, I guess that there are some “dreams” destined to play out in one’s life. Some women in ‘mid life’ crisis may contemplate taking to the road escaping on a Harley Davidson. But, here I was in 2004, and 2 years shy of the “big 50” ... oh,oh, oh, ... deciding instead to take a windy and adventurous ride on the seductive tones of the saxophone.

In a valiant effort to sound out the first tone without passing out, I made it through my first lesson on the soprano saxophone (not one that is usually assigned to a beginner student).  My teacher, Buddy, is a sucker for a challenge; so, he sticks with me for two and a half years on this particular instrument.

Buddy relies, to a greater extent, on my knowledge and skills as a Private Piano Teacher / Music Educator, with respect to score reading, rhythm, and musicianship.  Therefore, I have already won half the battle by his evaluation!  Focusing on regular and alternate fingering, developing secure embouchure, breathing like a vocalist through melodic phrases, sustained blowing, are the prime directives in this learning process.  So, when someone says that I am “full of hot air”, I now take it as a great compliment. Ingrained in the classical traditions, I am often challenged to overcome inhibitions of swinging the eight notes with abandon / getting “down and dirty” in the jazz groove.

Buddy thinks I am at the point in my performance development where it is time I spread my wings and join a Community Concert Band to gain experience in playing in a large ensemble setting.  So I make the switch to alto sax; because, as told, the soprano is rarely used in concert bands; it’s acts as a substitute ... Doubtful that I am ensemble ready, I waffle for ten or more months to make the decision. 

January 2008 eventually arrives and I’m trapped in making another New Year’s resolution and this time sticking to it.  So, on reaching out, I accepted President, Harland Marshall’s invitation to come out and join the Burlington Concert Band in its first rehearsal session of the New Year. Warmly greeted, Harland points to where the sax section is located. 

Amy Jones is already seated there; I make my way over to introduce myself and sit next to her. Although outwardly calm, nervousness prevails inside. Amy is sympathetic, and assure me that I will do just fine. “Just fake it” she advises.  But, the true test is soon to come. Should I miss the conductor’s down beat, or my instrument squeaks on entry, I’ll beat a hasty retreat!  But before I know it, the 2 hour session of music making is over. Whew, I’ve survived!

Monday evening rehearsals are now a regular activity that I look forward to. The fact that I will actually be performing with the rest of the Band members in the first upcoming Spring Fling 2008 concert of the year fills me with excitement.  More exciting was that there were future concerts scheduled in the summer, fall, and Christmas.  Of all the concerts in the ’08 year, the most significant was October 25th. It celebrated the 100 year of the Burlington Concert Band’s heritage of making music.  It was awesome to perform newly commissioned works by two living 20th C. Canadian Composers. The Band premiers Ryan Meeboer’s Centennial March, and Bobby Herriot’s Don Allan March is once again on the play list.  It was indeed a great privilege to have been a part of a heritage where the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

I was “floored” when approached to be a part of the Executive Committee in the upcoming ’09 elections to recruit new members.  My first reaction was “huh? me? why me? I’m still a rookie in this band!”  The Executive provides another dimension in the Band’s dynamics.  My involvement gives me the opportunity to witness unique personalities coming together as a team engaged in producing workable / realistic results through the concert planning and decision making process.  My colleagues in the saxophone section and I have also become more musically intimate. As a small ensemble on its own - which I formed - we are Sax ‘n Sync in performance.

I marvel at where my life’s journey has taken me. Would I trade it in for a “Harley” adventure?  Most likely not. 


Kamara is a local musician - pianist & saxophonist - and music educator. She has been teaching piano and theory in her home studio location for 25 years. She is a mom to 38-year-old son, Ryan, and daughter, Martha-Ann (1983-1994), and grandma to Aston (5 years) and Trystan (16 months). You can find Kamara and her musical soul mates every Monday evening at the Burlington Music Centre’s Rehearsal Hall.  She is currently the President of The Burlington Concert Band and an active performing member for 8 years, and the Recital Coordinator in ORMTA, Hamilton-Halton Branch; previously held the position as President [2012-2014].

www. burlingtonconcertband.ca