My Rob Belgrade epiphany

As I recall, it was a warm day sunny day in 1978. I was at Sonoma State downstairs in a classroom in the music building with my head buried into practicing my Taffanel & Gaubert E. J. #12 arpeggio exercise when there was a knock at the door.

“Whatcha workin’ on man?” – it was Rob Belgrade. In his typical attire (or the lack thereof in those days), Rob was wearing shorts and sandals, no shirt, and carrying a backpack and his saxophone. I showed him the book and the exercise on the music stand.

Rob looked at the music on the stand for maybe all of 15-20 seconds and then walked across the room. He opened up his backpack and pulled out his closed-hole student flute then promptly proceeded to play the exercise from across the room! I was stunned.

“How are you doing this??” I asked. “Easy, man” replied Rob as he walked backed over to the stand. “You see what you have here is a dominant seventh for the first measure, then a minor seventh for the second, then half diminished, then fully diminished going down chromatically.”

I knew right then that here was an example of the power of a solid theoretical background – I may not have known it intellectually, but I knew that Rob knew something I didn’t and if I wanted to be able to do what he did, I had better get my theory together – and quick!

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