Jean-Marie Londeix with William Street
LECTURE — Debussy and the ‘Rhapsody for Saxophone’
A Tribute to Jean-Marie Londeix
I met Jean-Marie Londeix on September 13, 1973. As the taxi dropped me at his home for the first time, I am certain that I could never have predicted that we would develop such a deep professional and personal relationship that will soon be 40 years young! When he opened the door to his home, he also readily opened the door to his wealth of knowledge, expertise and wisdom concerning the saxophone; information that Jean-Marie has always been willing and eager to share with any colleague who made the effort to explore, to understand and of course, from the point of view of musical performance, to practice!
I remember during that first year that he always arrived at the Conservatoire “early — to be on time”, as he said, for the 8:00 AM lessons. He always finished the day at 6:00PM, just as it had started, with the same enthusiasm, vigor, and philosophical cheerfulness about life and music. He would persevere with any student who exerted the energy and study time required. To tell absolutely the truth, he has always had little patience for those who did not put in the time or effort, although there are very few of his former students that did not grasp and cling to the fire and energy that he has always emanated in his dynamic teaching, performance and lectures. That essence is Jean-Marie Londeix. It is his energy, found in all aspects of his academic (of which he abhors the title) or artistic work that best describes all of his efforts.
Jean-Marie is an indefatigable researcher, as he is a passionate teacher and was a compelling performer. Listen to his recordings, read his books and lectures! He does nothing by half measures. Many times he has prepared a lecture and hours before the presentation he may decide to re-think and re-work the topic, which you can imagine for me, as his translator, creates many last minute challenges!
If I had to describe him with one word it would be “Artist”. He is a teacher of Artistry, an artistic player, a poetic and artistic writer. In short, a man of infinite passions!
Are there any shortcuts to a successful career such as his? He would say no. Wisdom comes with experience. Experience is gained over time. Understanding is part of the synthesis of practical and theoretical knowledge. Artistic genius is possibly a fortuitous outcome of the various elements and experiences combined. Once, not so long ago, a young saxophonist visited Jean-Marie for a saxophone lesson. The student asked Jean-Marie what was his secret for artistic success. Jean-Marie naively responded that he practiced two hours every day, doing scales, technical exercises, musical studies and was constantly working on new musical works for performance and for study. He explained that he read about the composers, their musical and artistic influences. He said that he analyzed the style of the music and that he tried to put the works into historical context and that he also tried to associate the music with other artistic movements such as painting, sculpture, literature and philosophy. When Jean-Marie was finished explaining the student held out his inviting wallet full of bank notes and said “I understand”, but offering the wallet closer to Jean-Marie “what is your secret? What is the trick?”A stunned Jean-Marie looked at the student and said again that he practiced two hours every day, doing scales, technical exercises, musical studies and was constantly working on new musical works for performance and for study.
I am certain that Jean-Marie would remind us that the acquisition of knowledge, the ability to write well, the ability to understand aesthetic values and play at an artistic level is not easy for anyone, including (and he would underline especially) him. If there is success, it is because of a strong interest, an infinite passion and one conscientiously investing in not only the quantity of time, but the quality of time.
This year we are celebrating not only the quantity of Jean-Marie Londeix’s 80th year, but the quality of his contribution to our beloved profession and especially to his thoughtful and great role as a pioneer to understanding all elements associated with the saxophone.