Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Beginning, Developing and Succeeding as a Thai Saxophonist: A Study of Teachers, Performers and the General Public

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Beginning, Developing and Succeeding as a Thai Saxophonist: A Study of Teachers, Performers and the General Public

Article excerpt


This qualitative research analyses stimuli during three phases in the career of Thai saxophonists. From a purposive sample of six saxophone teachers, six performers and twelve members of the general public, the paper reveals inspirations behind pursuit of a career in the saxophone, requirements for development as a saxophonist and conditions for success. The results show that reasons for starting to play the saxophone are personal interest and love of the saxophone, musical upbringing, friends, lifestyle, admiration of skilled saxophonists and the media. There are six requirements for development: personal characteristics, disciplined practice, good teachers, listening skills, experience and a musical identity. Role awareness and responsibility were the important requirements for success as a saxophone teacher. Successful professional saxophonists perform wholeheartedly to their full potential. Both saxophone teachers and performers must adapt their methods and techniques to the audience.

Keywords: saxophone, Thailand, inspiration, development, success

1. Introduction

The saxophone was introduced to Thailand at the end of King Vajiravudh's (Rama VI) reign in the 1920s (Amatayakun & Duangjantip 2007). The saxophone was restricted to marching military bands because Jazz and other modern genres were suffocated by teachers fearing a threat to classical music. Modern music did not gain popularity until the emergence of Western-style bars during the reign of King Prajadhipok (King Rama VII: 1925-35). These new establishments provided the environment for faster styles of music, such as jazz, and permitted incorporation of the saxophone into traditional piano and violin ensembles. From these origins, saxophones became adapted for use in traditional Thai music, including look tung (Thai-country music) and look kung (Thai-city music).

The greatest stimulus for popularising the saxophone among Thai people has been King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX: 1946-present), who is an accomplished alto saxophonist. Although the saxophone does not have a long history in Thailand, it has developed rapidly, with particularly important milestones in the last decade. The first Thai-International Composition Competition for Saxophone was held in 2006 and Mahidol University hosted the 15th World Saxophone Congress in 2009. Mahidol University College of Music also organises the International Jean-Marie Londeix Saxophone Competition. The increased domestic and international reputation of Thai saxophonists has resulted in a greater variety and quality of educational establishments providing higher level courses in the saxophone (Jaroensuk, 2005).

These are the views of famous Thai saxophonists regarding their profession in Thailand:

'Professional musicians in the past were not accepted by society as having a real job but love for the saxophone and inspiration from older performers changed the landscape of musical learning' (Sekpon Unsamran, personal communication, 2012).

'To be a good saxophonist, you must practise and's not all about training your playing ability, you must train your ears too' (Thanit Sriklindee, personal communication, 2012).

'To have a future as a saxophonist, you must develop your own style and not be an imitation' (Methawat Sapsaenyakorn, personal communication, 2012).

'Experience is the most important form of knowledge for musicians (Yongyut Piwsawan, personal communication, 2012).

From these comments, the most important factor in the development of the Thai saxophonist appears to be the learning process and systematic acquisition of knowledge. Given the significance of musical education, the research team wished to analyse the perceptions of teachers, performers and the general public regarding inspiration to become a saxophonist, requirements for professional development and conditions for success.

1.1 The Philosophy of a Saxophonist

Sukree Jaroensuk (2002) suggests that practice is at the heart of a good musician. …

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