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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Monroe man holds rush hour sax sessions near overpasses | Monroe News Star

"If you're ever near the intersection of North 18th Street and Texas Avenue in Monroe around rush hour, roll down your car window and listen" says Bonnie Bolden, Reporter.

Photo: Bonnie Bolden/The News-Star

Donald Givens plays saxophone for hours each day in the morning and the evenings in his gazebo. His yard is nestled near the corner of two overpasses, and commuters hear his practices daily.

Strangers pull up to his house and hand him money or ask him to play for them, and people around the city know him as the saxophone man, even if they don't know his name or what he looks like.

"I don't feel famous," he said.

Givens, 67, has learned three musical instruments as an adult: piano, saxophone and guitar. He learned two of those in the past five years.

Anyone can learn, he said. Keys to success at any age are confidence and perseverance. A lot of people fail because they assume they can't succeed and don't put forth their full effort. Knowing you can accomplish your goals is essential, and tackling what, to many, seems like a monumental task later in life can have benefits.

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Tickling the ivories
When he was 28, he started taking his daughter to piano lessons and decided he wanted to learn too. 
He said she practiced because her mother wanted her to learn, so she was done as soon as time was up.

He, however, was learning because he had a real desire to hone his skill.

A few months into piano classes, he was discouraged. Having each hand play different notes while reading the music and using the foot pedals on the piano seemed like too much. 

His teacher told him everyone else did it and he could do it too. He said she was right, so he kept playing.

Givens would practice for hours and try working out new songs beyond his range.

He'd go to Roark Music on Jackson and buy a song if he thought the words were beautiful. He'd have his piano teacher play it for him, and if he liked the piece, he'd keep practicing until he had it down pat.

"Regardless of how difficult it was, if it's beautiful,I'm going to stay there and stick with it until I learn how to play it," he said. Many of the more beautiful pieces are more difficult...

Palm Tree Sax
He started trying to copy Kenny G and other well-known saxophonists

"When I first started, I would play inside the house. When I got pretty decent I went out to the drive way, and when I thought I was pretty good, I went out to the gazebo," he said.Since then, he's been a part of numerous drivers' days. 

His favorite pieces to play include "Jesus, You're the Center of My Joy," " You Are So Beautiful," "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone," and "Memory."

Givens said he can play four to five hours without getting winded now, and he loves to keep practicing because there is no end goal with music.

"You can never master it," he said. "It's unending."

His daily practices have yielded numerous offers to play at events. At a birthday party, a local radio personality introduced Givens as Palm Tree Sax.

"I've had a lot of fun. So many people have come up in here."

Givens said one man claimed his music calmed him down and kept him from killing his boss. Several people have told him the jazz helps calm them down.
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Source: Monroe News Star