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My Martin Tenor Saxophone Uberhaul - A Personal Story

We recently had the pleasure of Uberhauling a horn for a special person: general manager Jeff Massa's mother, Janet. Of course, we all think Jeff is great and were excited to do the honor of bringing a treasured saxophone in his family back to life. The 65 year old instrument came into the Sax ProShop dented and worn, but left in shining silver and gold and ready to be played and cherished for at least another 65 years! Janet sent us a wonderful story about the horn which she has graciously allowed us to share with you. Thanks Janet! ...


The History of My Martin Tenor Saxophone
In 1962, when I was thirteen, my mother bought me a tenor sax.
It was the right instrument at the right time, for sale on consignment at Main Music, East Greenwich, for a price my parents could afford. I didn’t know anything about the saxophone or the person who owned it before me. I do remember it seemed perfect to me, gold and beautiful in a crimson velvet case-- The Martin Tenor, my first real musical instrument.
Perhaps desire and determination are enough to compensate for a mediocre musical talent. I faked my way through my first season high school marching band. By my sophomore year my Martin Tenor earned me first chair, medals at Solo and Ensemble Festivals, and a place in All State Band. I was a total band nerd, and playing my much-loved, if obscure (that is, not a Selmer), sax was the best part of high school.
It was a big disappointment to learn that no state college music program would admit me playing the saxophone. I needed an orchestral instrument, so my sax had to go back in the case while I learned to play the bassoon. I liked the bassoon, but I didn’t love it, and I played well enough, but I was no prodigy. It went back in the case, too, and was eventually sold. I never considered parting with my sax.
It started its third career when I married my husband, who was a junior high school band director. The jazz band program needed saxophones, which meant changing over flute and clarinet players who weren’t given the sax option in elementary school. There weren’t enough school instruments to go around, so my tenor sax went out on loan to some of the more talented students. Martin was returned with unfamiliar dents and scratches, but it was good to know someone else was being given the same opportunity that I had.
My son Marc decided to take up the saxophone in high school. During its fourth career, the sax endured football games, halftime shows, parades, and wind ensemble concerts. After two seasons, Marc decided band was not his thing, so back it went into the case. By then, the lacquer was wearing thin, the keys were clicking loudly, and there were large dents in the bell from hitting against hard objects.
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Jeff, my youngest son, traded his student alto in for the tenor. My Martin began its fifth, and probably best, career with a better musician than I could ever imagine being. It was in very poor condition, so we sent it out to be overhauled by a local music repairman. While it came back with new pads and new lacquer, it still wasn’t quite right, so we bought Jeff a new sax. Mine went back in the case one more time.
When my husband retired, he started a practice jazz ensemble, mostly because playing jazz had been a constant in our family and we couldn’t imagine being without it. I had mostly been playing the baritone sax, but when the band was suddenly without a tenor player, I brought the Martin out of its case one more time. The poor repair job was still a problem, however. There were still the dents. The lacquer had begun to peel in huge leprous patches. The rods were bent, and the pads were falling out.
I brought the Martin back to the repairman, who told me it couldn’t be fixed. Too old, he said. Too worn out. Maybe I could hang it on the wall and plant ivy in the bell. I didn’t think that was amusing, and I wasn’t going to sell it for parts, so it came back home.
I didn’t think much about the Martin until my son Jeff started work at Music Medic. He told me that vintage saxophones could be overhauled and made to play as well, or better, than they had when they were new. That was pretty much a revelation. I’ve owned my sax for 52 years, but I never thought about it as being vintage, just an old horn beaten to death by misuse and bad repairs. When I researched it on the Internet, I discovered that a Martin is not a no-name sax but quite a good instrument, and respect for it is definitely not misplaced. The serial number traces its manufacture to about 1949. Besides sharing a birth year, the Martin Tenor and I share a history, and it has figured in some the best times of my life. Bringing it to Music Medic for an overhaul was a no-brainer. For all it’s meant to us, it certainly deserved better treatment than it’s been given.
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Jeff sent me pictures and updates of the repair. It was a little scary to watch my sax being dismembered and to see, close up, the effects all the terrible things that had been done to it in its long history.
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But now it’s been brought home; it’s absolutely beautiful, and it plays better than when it was first given to me. The action is smooth and silent, and every note speaks as clearly as the next, top to bottom. Instead of being a worn-out relic, it’s an heirloom. My Martin Tenor has been brought back to life, and I most certainly would never consider parting with it.