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Clinton’s Sax Mania Boosting Instrument’s Popularity

February 1, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bill Clinton’s presidency is sweet music to one tiny niche of the nation’s economy - businesses that sell saxophones and lessons.

Clinton made new political music when he played his favorite instrument on Arsenio Hall’s late-night television show during the campaign. He wailed on it again at the inaugural balls on his first night as president.

The high-profile exposure has brought new interest in the curvaceous woodwind invented by Belgian Adolphe Sax 153 years ago.

″Since (Clinton’s) initial appearance on television, we’ve probably had a 15 to 20 percent increase in sales,″ said Ken Yoho, a sales representative for Boosey & Hawks, a major sax manufacturer.

″We’ve had more calls (from) new students this past week than in any other week I can remember,″ said Alice Pennington, who directs music classes for Dale Music in Silver Spring, Md., outside Washington.

And at last week’s National Association of Music Merchants’ trade show, retail orders of saxes increased, said Jerry Derloshon, the group’s spokesman.

″The whole picture is that there’s an increased interest, which is translated into retail dollars,″ Derloshon said. He didn’t have exact figures.

Some music store managers said while the new president’s sax mania has yet to bring significant new sales, it can’t help but popularize the instrument as time goes on.

″He’s not doing nothing for my business right now, but he just got in office,″ said Herbert Anderson, owner of Hason Music in Los Angeles.

Bob Massimino, co-owner of Massimino Music in Fraser, Mich., said he’s received a few additional inquiries about lessons, but that actual rentals and enrollment haven’t increased.

But Bill McFarlin, executive director of the International Association of Jazz Educators, said the heavy sax presence during inaugural week and Clinton’s love for the instrument will definitely boost the art form. McFarlin said he anticipates a marked rise in enrollment in college jazz classes over the next year.

The popularity of the saxophone has been increasing for a number of years, thanks to the success of pop saxophonist Kenny G and rock groups featuring the instrument.

Geraldine Willis, owner of Willis Music in Chesterfield Township, Mich., said she’s seen a spurt in saxophone sales and rentals over the past two years.

″The interest was already there (before Clinton),″ she said.

According to industry estimates, world saxophone sales roughly doubled from 200,000 instruments to more than 400,000 in the last five years.

And Clinton is likely to keep the trend going.

″Whether saxophone music per se will have some kind of renaissance remains to be seen,″ said Quint Davis, who produced Clinton’s inaugural musical festival on the National Mall.

″What’s important is that we have a president that plays the blues and rhythm and blues and jazz,″ he said. ″It will cause a focus on traditional American music that will be tremendous.″

As for Clinton’s performance, reviews were mixed.

″I loved it,″ said Joan Willoughby, administrator of the Washington Conservatory of Music in Bethesda, Md. ″But then I’m a Democrat.″

Jim Sivard, 41, an experienced saxophonist who plays clubs in the Washington area, said the talk among musicians is that Clinton is ″a spirited performer, a very talented amateur.″

But not all saxophone aficionados are as charitable.

″He’s not that serious of a saxophone player,″ said Emil Moro, owner of the Detroit Saxophone Center. ″He’s not that good.″

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