Over the past few months, we have been continuing to speak to figures all across the music industry to discover their stories, see how they have adapted and unveil how music has helped them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this episode of our ‘Lockdown Stories’ series, we’re speaking to Dom (Dom Plays Sax), a successful saxophonist from Bedfordshire who can be found at countless weddings and venues across East Anglia. We caught up with Dom to see how he has been using this time to innovate and reconnect with his music, as well as offering people some much needed musical cheer ups!
Tell us about yourself and your musical history:
“I’m Dom and I’m a sax player. I set up my business about 5 years ago playing saxophone for weddings, parties and venues. Throughout university I was playing across loads of university bands and pretty soon realised this was something I could do as a business and could probably move forwards with.
When I was younger my parents thought it would be a great idea for me to learn a musical instrument even though they themselves weren't that musical. We spoke to the school about the best instruments to start us off with. The instrument I was recommended to play was the piano which fitted perfectly with my mum as we already had a piano, but in my eyes I had always pictured myself playing the saxophone.
If I was going to be playing music, it was going to be through the saxophone so basically we agreed that if I learnt the fundamentals of piano and showed I was willing to learn music and can commit to learning an instrument, we’ll then invest in a saxophone for me.
The rest is history and after that, I was lucky enough to get a Trevor James saxophone that served me well for many years. I continued playing through school and played with a classical and jazz saxophonist. At university, I got a scholarship at Nottingham Trent and they continued using me for solos for big bands and concerts and things like that which was really fun. So I was always progressing with my learning and just playing stuff off by heart.
Because of the teaching that I’ve had from classical and jazz training, I’ve been quite lucky to learn the different ways of playing an instrument and can now apply that to my sets!”
How has your lockdown experience been and how has music helped you?
“From my side of things, obviously a big part of my life is performance. That’s really what I enjoy doing and I love seeing the emotion in people’s faces and the interaction with people in a live audience.
I had a really busy 2019 and was lined up to have an even bigger 2020. With the way the wedding world is, 2020 was going to be a big year plus I had a lot of live events that I had been booked in for various pubs and local venues. That obviously didn't happen, the wedding side in particular got completely wiped out which was a real shame, but most have been rebooked for 2021.
I was lucky that I did have a safety net of a full time job as well, but it has been interesting to see the mental side of music coming through and being ‘performance ready’.
It definitely takes a toll on you when you come out of a lockdown and someone says “Can you perform for me this Friday?”. Your brain tricks you to worry as you think “I haven’t performed in 4 months”. Normally, you’re used to having performance after performance so it’s a rolling thing of ‘I’m ready to go’ and know exactly what you’re doing, so that’s been interesting to overcome.
Now moving onto the good part, I would say one thing is that lockdown has really allowed me to explore more music that I would normally not have much time to actually play. I’m now playing more music that I personally want to be playing rather than things that I’m asked to play from couples or the venue.
Also in terms of just listening to more music, I’ve been able to explore more genres, we’re living in an age of Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music. I love the way they just recommend songs to you and then give you a list of other artists and playlists you might like.
I’ve always felt that with music, it just kind of takes you away from the situation you’re in. If I’m feeling stressed, or there’s too much going on in my head, I’ll just sit down and listen to something chilled out and calm. It takes you away and distresses you. It’s kind of mesmerizing and is kind of like a form of yoga for me.
Lockdown has had it’s pros and cons and obviously I want to be out performing but I think the signs are positive and we’re moving forwards so hopefully 2021 summer will be great for performances and a lot of good times really!”
What do you think someone can gain from learning an instrument?
“I think there are a few things you can gain from learning music. I think learning an instrument helps learning in general, so in the early stages of school and life you’re taught to break things down and put things into snippets, music is the same. I still to this day will take a tune, use a metronome to slow it down and especially for more difficult jazz tunes will break it down, go over it slowly and build it up and up and up.
I would say that music is also basically like learning a language because you’re always reading notes, understanding them and seeing how they work together.
I think playing music of any kind just helps you relax and chill out. Just to take a quick break to stop and listen to music can help you basically just live your life and evaluate what you’re doing. If things aren’t going well, you can just stop, take a break, play some music and then come back to it with a new frame of mind.
I think a lot of people focus too hard on their work, so having the ability to stop for a few minutes, switch off and play some sax, my whole focus just changes. I know that during university, it really helped me refresh my mind.
That’s why it really frustrates me when people say that music should be taken off the curriculum or that it’s not that important because without it, you’re not allowing people to live.
Do you want everyone to be a bot, or just going through numbers, there’s no experience or emotion in that and those are the things that really make your life exciting and special.
With music you can portray yourself in whatever form you want, that’s the same for any art form. That’s why I would recommend anyone to learn an instrument, it’s just having something creative and expressive and being able to take themselves away from pressures they might have.”
What are you most excited about for the coming year?
“I am most excited about just getting out there again. Performing and being a part of live performances again. I love getting recommendations from people so it will be nice to be able to learn new genres of music and explore that outside of the performing world.
I’m also planning to keep enhancing my Ibiza style sets and introduce new dance music into my performances. To be honest, just playing anything at all, whatever anyone wants, I’ll be there!”
For more lockdown stories, check out our interviews with Cambridge musician Leanne Rae and also the Let’s Play The Piano Group!
If you’re feeling particularly inspired to learn the saxophone after reading Dom’s story, view our saxophone range here or learn more about the different types of saxophone here. Or share your sound with us on social media using the #MillersMusic!