Saxophonist Doug Pullen performs Bach to Beatles

Lodi students go on tour from Bach to Beatles


Tim Snyder says, “I was privileged to take private saxophone lessons with Doug Pullen when I was in high school.”


Saxophonist Doug Pullen recently gave the students of Washington Elementary School in Lodi a musical history tour from Bach to Beatles.

Students clapped along as he played his rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” Symphony No. 9, at an assembly on May 2.

Pullen then shared the history of the saxophone and its inventor, Adolphe Sax.

“It was invented in Belgium in 1846,” Pullen told the children.

He told the students that the saxophone was a much more recent invention than most of the brass and woodwinds instruments that existed for hundreds of years before the birth of the saxophone.

Pullen explained that the saxophone was part woodwind and part brass. Sax had added a mouthpiece from a bass clarinet to a brass tube to create this combination instrument.

“Bach had used basically two scales, the major scale and the minor scale,” said Pullen.

Pullen played both of these scales for the students and then played the chromatic scale. Giving an example of chromatic scale in a musical piece, he then played a piece by Claude Debussy, along with some water and bird nature sounds from a CD.

Pullen shared several stories with the children about the accident-prone Adolphe Sax.

At 3 years old, Sax fell down a full flight of stairs and broke bones.

“I’ve been to that house,” said Pullen. “There’s about 30 of those steps with a rope on each side.”

At 7 years old, Sax accidentally swallowed acid for cleaning brass instruments, and at 14 years old, he accidentally swallowed a needle.

Pullen played a medley of 20th Century music for the children that included “In the Mood,” “Harlem Nocturne,” “Tequila,” Yakety Sax,” “Pink Panther” theme, “Baker Street,” “Careless Whisper” and “The Simpsons” theme.

In an interactive session, children showed that they recognized the themes for “Pink Panther” and “The Simpsons.”

“A lot of classical music they recognize, but they don’t know it,” commented Principal Emil Carafa.

Seven student volunteers played tambourines and maracas during Pullen’s Beatles medley. The medley included “Hard Day’s Night,” “Get Back,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “All My Lovin’,” “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude” and “Twist and Shout.”

Pullen then played Kenny G’s “Serenade” as children left the auditorium. He then gave an instrumental clinic to the fifth-grade band.

In a question and answer session with students, Pullen shared that he started piano lessons at 6 years old and saxophone lessons at 7.

“He just came back from Panama,” said Lou Ricco, music teacher, of Pullen. “He goes to schools and helps them better their programs.”

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