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Skyler Nolan ’22 on his struggle to play the saxophone

The SFCM junior had originally been told he’d never get to play an instrument, but a kind teacher helped him overcome an early setback.

July 15, 2021 by Tim Records

In his own words, Skyler Nolan (BM ’22) discusses how he finally got to play his dream instrument and come to SFCM.

My band director was determined to not let me play the saxophone. The story begins in the 5th grade. I had gotten a really bad virus at the time of Florida's standardized testing. I failed the reading test because I had to go to the hospital in the middle of it. I didn't think anything of it, because I was in the hospital, not a big deal. Then I go to sixth grade and I try to sign up to play saxophone in the band. When I went to meet the band director, he said, “You want to play the saxophone? No, you can't play saxophone in my band. And I will make sure that when you go to high school, you can't play saxophone there either, because I'm the direct feeder.” Demoralized, I signed up to play cello in the orchestra.

When I went to the first day of sixth grade, I didn't have orchestra on my schedule. I didn’t even have PE because they had me in three or four English classes that year. The principal called me functionally illiterate—those were his exact words to my folks’ faces. And long story short, I ended up getting to transfer schools because they weren't going to listen to my parents saying, “He was in the hospital. He didn't finish the test.” When I transferred, they asked me what electives I wanted to take. I said, “I wanted to play saxophone in the band but the other guy told me I never could.” The guy said, “Oh, cool. Do you want to play alto or tenor?” I said, “I really want to play tenor.” He said, “Alright, cool. Come pick it up.” Suddenly, and then ever since then, I've just been like, “Yes, this is what I really like.” In eighth grade, I made the Florida All-State Band. I didn't know anything about it, but I made it.

In my sophomore year, I entered and won a jazz competition in Jacksonville. At the same time, I also got into the arts high school there. My folks wanted to move out of Orlando, so after winning the competition, we moved to Jacksonville. From then on I knew jazz was what I wanted to do. SFCM was the only school I auditioned at. I loved the jazz faculty and the idea of being part of something new. I’ve just finished my junior year at SFCM and am so glad to be here.

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