Warwick Valley Middle School seventh grader Hank Wendell decided to start playing the saxophone in fourth grade. The decision turned out to be a good one, because Hank really enjoys playing the sax now. At first, however, it was painfully hard.
Getting the fingering down was difficult, but Hank said the hardest part was actually working his lips and cheeks to get the instrument to produce a pleasing sound.
“There are a lot of buttons to learn,” Hank said. “But also, to get your embouchure right and to actually make a decent noise was extremely challenging. Embouchure is the parts around your mouth that you squeeze to be able to blow into the reed and have it make a sound. Once you start, at the very beginning, it hurts so much.”
Hank decided to play the saxophone because of his grandfather, who plays the instrument in a jazz band.
“I was inspired by my grandfather and I look up to him,” Max said. “His sax was the first one I played. When I started it was not easy, but I loved it. Just the sound of it being played correctly and the satisfaction of playing something right is just amazing.”
WVMS music teacher Peter VanDeWater called Hank a naturally gifted musician.
“In the band he plays the saxophone and possesses a beautiful tone and musicianship that is beyond his years,” Mr. VanDeWater said. “Hank also has a great sense of humor and is liked and respected by both his peers and teachers.”
Another teacher who respects Hank is Shane Peters, who has him in chorus. Mr. Peters described Hank as a powerhouse musician as well as a phenomenal singer and leader.
Practicing and taking music classes at home, both last spring and now in the holiday pause, does present some challenges. Hank used a saxophone from the school last spring, but now he has his own instrument.
“It’s a little awkward because my siblings have (online) lessons at the same time, and they’re like: ‘Quiet down’”, Hank said. “I close the door of my room, and if they still yell at me, I ask them to close their doors. There’s really nothing else I can do.”
Besides his musical talents, Hank also plays tennis and soccer. He hopes to play modified tennis in the spring. Academically, Hank said the school year has been going great, and he loves all of his classes. He was recently named to the WVMS Grade 7 High Honor Roll.
Warwick Artist of the Week Hank Wendell.