Friday, April 13, 2007

Alto Saxophone

Well what can I say about “thatha” or GRANDPA, I don't know if there is any one else as crazy as me. If so, welcome to the club. I am a member of almost every MF Fan club, web site and blogspot that I have ever come across on the web. At work all time I am listening to jazz player radio, even my PC had a MF theme and at start up of MS windows a voice would say "Hi, I am Maynard Ferguson"...

This madness started during Christmas 1995 when thatha had come down to Prashanthi Nilayam. It was my 1st year of college and two of my roommates were in the band. My room was just below the band room in the boys hostel. I could hum almost every tune the band played - I longed to be in the band, be as close to thatha as possible. The first time I got to see and hear him play was when he performed for all the hostel students in the dining hall.

I was the happiest of all when I got into the band the next year... I was waiting for Christmas. DJ was crowned as the new band leader and I was very lucky that Sampath and me were "chauffeurs" to MF. We guys had the unique opportunity of picking up and dropping thatha. I have had innumerable golden moments with beloved thatha during these trips.

One day in the year 1996, I remember I had read in the morning newspaper about Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone’s 50th birth day which was celebrated on June 6th. In continuation to these celebrations, that weekend was being celebrated as the 20 anniversary of the movie Rocky. A gala celebration happened in Planet Hollywood Hong Kong.

As usual, in the evening, Sampath and me take the hostel car and reach the round block in the ashram.
Pa-papa-pappa-pa, I knock on the door.
I can hear MF say, "Flo it’s the band boys, my chauffeurs are here".

MF once said that all his band guys (Big Bop Nouveau) knock with the “Gonna fly now” intro rhythm whenever they are at his door. So from that day on I did the same!

MF welcomes us at the door with his MF-brand laugh!

"Wow thatha is looking cool and summerish", he is in his shorts and V neck vest. We go in and sit while grand pa has his snack and coffee. We start to chat with him - a regular thing of 10 to 15 minutes everyday. I tell him about the 20th anniversary celebration of Rocky and about Stallone's birthday.

MF says, "Flo, did you hear that Rocky turns 20 ? It’s a long time."

Then MF shares an anecdote, something that happened during the shoot of Rocky. There is a scene in the movie where the background music score is heard as rhythmic hard punches on the punch bag (it was actually supposed to be recorded live). MF was not sure if this was possible but Stallone volunteered to sit with MF while MF actually taught him the rhythm and helped him do the punches in the same rhythm! A live recording was done !

The next such instance was one evening on a similar chat. Mrs. Ferguson was narrating some funny moments that had happened in their daughters band. At the end she commented, “Mind you it was an all girls band”, and she added, "Isn't it dear?",turning to look at MF.

MF with a "Hmmm", quickly turns and asks “Sorry what did you say?” She repeats "Wasn’t it an all girls band - our daughters - honey?" Then MF quips, "Oh yeah I suppose all our daughters are girls!" We all laugh aloud and MF hugs madam Flo and both of them continue to laugh more...

"She is funny", says MF with a wink.

As we are ready to leave MF says,"Bye Flo" and starts to walk. From inside she reminds him that he is forgetting his flask and the coffee mug.

"Oh yes thank you",says MF and turns to me, places his hand on my shoulder and says,"You see, she loves me a lot and cares for me so much, just as how Swami wanted her to be in our interview."

Mrs. Ferguson comes and hands over the cup to MF and both of them kiss. MF actually puts the cup in front of his face. With a warning gesture and a MF-brand laugh he says, "Not in front of the schoolboys!"

We all laugh leave for band practice ...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Raghavendra J
2000 - 2004

The story that I am going to narrate may sound like its out of a movie (Bollywood stuff) but believe me its true.

I am a guy born and brought up in Puttaparthy, in other words a “local” here. I have witnessed many programs but there was this person by name MF who left a lasting impression (love at first sight). I did not know what instrument he was playing and I had no idea what was going on. The ambience was ignited and the crowd was celebrating and swinging to his tune.

It was at that time that I thought to myself, “Will I ever become a musician of this stature?”

After that I did not see him for some time and forgot about him completely.

I got admission into the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in 1999 and the golden age dawned on me from the year 2000, the 75th year of the avatar - I got selected for the band.

During one practice session all bandizens seemed very excited, yelling that Ferguson was coming. With Amby (Prem Kumar) around the entire atmosphere was lit up!

Then entered the man whom I had seen long ago. Memories started welling up. He was followed by Mr. Paul Erhard. MF took out his trumpet and said to Paul, who was on double bass, “Give a G and C”. I looked at Paul expecting him to give some thing out of his pocket! Surprisingly, for me, Paul closed his eyes and started accompanying MF. The rest is history.

I really felt how fortunate I was to see him at such close proximity. There can never be an end to this kind of a person. He is eternal. As long as there is music there is MF. We owe everything to him for bringing out the musician in each one of us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Anshuman Das
Music Group
1996 – 2005

I was pained and shocked to hear the sad news. I was in the primary school when I first saw MF performing during many Christmas mornings. Wearing his golden jacket and kurta, his face becoming pink whenever he blew hard for the higher octaves.

Since my primary school days (I joined primary school in 1991, class 3) I have seen the music group perform and dreamt that some day I would be a part of it. I was fortunate to make it and be a part of this great adventure in my 8th class when MF came to the old hostel dining hall to conduct the carols along with Mr. Bailey. It was such a joy watching them enjoy their music. They made fun of each other (both of them were stout, especially Mr. Bailey).
MF may have been a great trumpet player but with the band boys and all of us he was a happy jolly man full of “josh”.

A Master - I am proud to have seen and heard.

I had always wanted to listen to him just once more. A few days back I was feeling lonely and took out CD only to find some of his recordings! It was ... well, no words are adequate to describe the feeling and the Master.
His trumpet and the music can never leave my memories for a long long time to come.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sunam Gyamtso
Music Group

Sairam! I used to be part of the Sai Symphony at Prashanthi Nilayam and Brindavan. I consider the passing away of such a great soul as Maynard Ferguson a great loss to the world of music. I still recollect the golden moments that we spent together with him. He was so humble in his bearings despite his colossal stature.

One particular incident that is ever etched in my memory is when he had come to our dining hall in the hostel at Parthi and performed in the divine presence. He began by saying that he had been inspired to compose a special song that morning. The words of the song were:

Sathya Sai Baba, Why don't you look at me?
Sathya Sai baba, Why don't you talk to me?

His performance was so spontaneous and he possessed no inhibitions whatsoever. I felt as though he was articulating the prayers of millions of devotees in those simple words. And of course his musical improvisation that day was a masterpiece. Wish I could share more such incidents, but for the paucity of space and time.

I need not pray for his immortal soul. He was definitely a Jeevan Mukta, born to teach the world the pathway to liberation through music.
E N Prabhakaran
1993 - 1995

Shri. Maynard Ferguson conducted our SSSIHL band group on many occasions. I was fortunate to have learnt to play the trombone under his supervision during 1994-1995. He was a fantastic musician. His love and appreciation for the discipline and science in Indian musical formats, both Hindustani and Carnatic, was unique and always refreshing to us in the band group.

His devotion to Swamy and dedication to music was heartening. I still remember how he would visit us before and after bhajans and darshan, to teach us during band practice. He would walk all the way from mandir to the college like a young kid bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. He always had a smile and a joke for every occasion, forever cheering up people. He was one of the first from whom I got a glimpse of the positive culture in the West.

His passing away is a sad loss to all those who knew him. I humbly pray to Bhagawan that his soul may rest in peace.
Vadan Koppalle
1989 - 1992

It was in the year 1989 that I was part of the Band Team playing the trombone for the college. Well when it comes to memories spent with the great personality Maynard, words are limited.

As Vidyadhar put the words right - He will have a place in our hearts. He will have a place in our hearts for eternity and the large hearted person that he was, I do hope that we have our place in his as well.
Amitabh Choudhury
Alto and Tenor Saxophone
1994 - 2001

Many considered him a legend, “The king of Jazz”, they called him. Others hailed him as a fabulous musician and a great human being. To us brethren, he was just good ol’ GRANDPA.

It was sometime in the spring of ’83 (or was it 84 / 85? the cells grow grey, memories grow old! So pardon the exact dates or years). I was a little student in the Primary school at Prashanthi Nilayam. It was then that a couple of us first heard the tunes from the original Yamahas / Holtons wafting across the school grounds. We also heard that Mr. Maynard Fergusson had come to town.

Good ol’ Grandpa came to our Lord, bringing along with him an infectious zest to live and play music. And play he did, straight into the heart of our beloved Bhagawan and all in the premises of our beautiful Prashanthi Nilayam. Swami heard the yearning in his music and straightaway dispatched him to meet with our senior brothers. A tempest was brewing and the Lord knew it. Well this one certainly was a wonderful Tempest!

I recollect those to be the days when our senior Band of Brothers would attack each musical piece with gusto, memorize the entire piece and then come together alive to play their hearts out for our Lord.

I joined the Band in the year of 1994 and found myself playing my heart out too, only difference was that we had started reading musical scores and had also become extremely conscious in trying to hear each other and play as one sound. Quite a few of these later developments were also due to the devoted efforts of a few other great musicians along with Maynard, namely Mr. David Bailey and Mr. Paul Erhard.

Through all these times, times of fun playing music together, times of sweat and toil to get our respective scores perfect, times of … well lots of things, our dear good ol’ Grandpa was always there - enthusing our efforts and bringing life to our music. The amazing yarns he spun out of thin air, his extempore versions of various famous scores, his instant musical creations on the trumpet, the cornet and also the soprano sax were a source of constant elation to our young hearts and lives.

As I read the innumerable tributes paid to our beloved Grandpa, I still faintly hear those first tunes of the Yamahas after all these long gone by years. Years when we look back across the distant yonder and wonder at the marvel created by Maynard Ferguson. A marvel which we were all such a cherished part of. A marvel which we lovingly call the “Band”. A marvel for which today we affectionately remember the man who started it all.

Across the span of these years, the Band’s tunes still play on in our hearts with our dear ol’ Grandpa’s jubilant face etched all over it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Chandrasekar Sankaran

It feels very sad to know that one of the foremost mentors of the Sri Sathya Sai Brass Band is no more. It is impossible to replace a person like Mr. Ferguson, who taught and forged the Band in his own way, always filled with fun and frolic. He never ever had the air of an icon or a big star. We always felt very comfortable around him and whenever he taught us we were like his own band students.
I can never forget the way we all used to shout and welcome him each time he entered the Band room or when he came for practice. Nor can I ever forget the jazz music he used to play for us from his albums in between the practice sessions or how he used to come to the hostel to practice with us for the many Christmas programs we have performed. We have got so many chances to be near Swami because He was happy with Ferguson. Once, if you all remember, Swami asked him to come and sit near Him after we had performed in Sai Kulwant Hall.
I hope and pray that he has reached Swami's Lotus feet and attained peace.
Sai Prasad
1st Cornet/Trumpet

Although I was new to western music & marching bands, Maynard’s charm put me at ease. His teaching style was so very easy that even a total newbie would have picked up in no time. That was his charisma. I will be ever indebted to him for instilling music in me. Today music is a constant part of my life and I owe it to MF & the SSSIHL Band.

I still remember the days with MF when we were practicing for the Christmas concert to be performed in front of Swami in the Poornachandra auditorium. What an opportunity it was! I always wonder about the amount of energy that he had at that age. He used to ward off any signs of tiredness with a hearty laughter and hilarious jokes.

The practice sessions in front of the computer lab, the library, the photo sessions with MF in front of College Entrance, the musical story sessions with MF and Bailey - all still remain vivid memories.

Maynard, we will surely miss you but your music and you are eternal. May your music (Light) live in us always.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Vidyadhar U
Bagpipe / Snare Drum / 1st Trumpet
1985 - 1992

Dear Bandizens Young and not so young, Greetings.

The year was 1985 and Parthi was agog with the commencement of the academic year that heralded the mother of all events - the 60th birthday. It was my fist year as a student at Parthi and we were all bursting with excitement. Every day was a moment to cherish with Swami just pouring out His Prema and the students soaking in every bit of it. We had just recovered from a bout of stony silence and the loving mother was more than making up for the "treatment" administered by involving us in the Convocation Drama, Jhoola Music Program, Birthday Procession, food distribution and loads and loads of other stuff.

Back then, there was no Sai Kulwanth Hall, no flooring at the darshan hall - neither concrete nor cuddapah. Just the golden sands fringed by the coconut palms and His footsteps embossed on them. The stillness of darshan was explosive. All eyes riveted on the carved wooden door, waiting for that moment when the knob creaked to allow the Glimmer into this setting.

On one such pleasant July evening, the Door opened and instead of the Gaze shifting from the crack of the door to scan the tray bearing birthday boys, the Eyes remained on the veranda.

"When did you come sir?" - intoned the familiar Voice.

Suddenly a genial, gregarious giant, with arms folded, somehow hopped skipped and jumped over the other stoically seated functionaries, all in one motion and knelt before Swami saying

"This morning, Swami".

Immediately, the Premaswaroopa was gleaming with the mischief reserved for very few. A long conversation followed with a lot of gesticulations and laced with a lot of laughter, prema and ananda. Just as the person was being blessed with Vibhuthi, straight faced whispers were shared by the white clad masses seated in the portico with craning necks - "Ferguson, Ferguson!"

Turning towards us seated there Swami smilingly said - "Vocchesaaru mana Trumpet!"

These are my first memories of the man Swami lovingly referred to as 'Trumpet', whom many budding and established musicians referred to as Boss, our band boys called Dad or Grandpa and the world knew as Maynard Ferguson.

The impression that has remained in my minds eye for over twenty years is of the unsullied joy that existed between Swami and Maynard. That twinkle of instantaneous recognition that is reserved for very few of the millions of Pilgrims to Parthi, was always there in abundance for Maynard.

A few days later we enjoyed a wonderful program the hostel (in the unexpanded dining hall of those days packed with 600+ school and Institute students). MF played Vaatapi, Ganga Jatadhara, Sai Baba Blues. The audience and the accompanying musicians were elevated to a different realm. The Sweet Baba suite was first played to an audience that day. Numerous interviews to the blessed couple, Maynard and Flo, followed with Swami showering His kindness in abundance on them.

During this time Swami froze the plans for Maynard’s return in November when he was slated to play fusion pieces with the physicist Vemu Mukund on the Veena. Maynard in turn had some preliminary discussions with the seniors in the "Sai Symphony", as the music group was called back then, and gave them some instructions.

Some of the students would be accompanying the Maestro!

Next was the crucial selection test for the students who would accompany Maynard.. Luckily MF had left behind his Holton and this was the only instrument we had for practice! To cut a long story short, it was total trepidation for me, all of fourteen years, in the IXth standard, to somehow blow my way through the test. In my inspired enthusiasm to impress the great man I hit a high C after the G on his trumpet, not knowing the fingering to progress through A, B in between. He laughed and said, “This guy has got range”
A few days later I was thrilled to hear that I was amongst the three selected to play with him for the 19th November program.

Thus MF’s return marked a seven year “enrichment of music appreciation and learning” for me. He brought with him two more horns which we used for the 19th November, 1985 program. He had four days to train us and we were soaking in all the “gyaan” on lip positioning, chest filled up and eyes on the Boss. All the cues, the nuances of tuning indoors and outdoors, resting the lips, when to continue to play, how to withdraw, what the single wink nod meant and what the thumbs up with the finger pointing downwards indicated.

It would be an understatement to say that those three or four days of practice was an education for a lifetime. The super hit of that program was “When The Saints Go Marching In” - nothing fancy like Chameleon or Gospel John that the band played many years later. MF took that simple melody to stratospheric levels during that concert, like only he could. We were performing on the Shanthi Vedika stage. Swami and a select few elders and guests were seated in the “D”. Over a million others had converged on the hills and the ground beyond. In spite of this intimidating audience MF made us, the three trumpets, come in front of the stage and perform! Never before had there been anything quite like that in my life nor has there been thereafter. He made us look like heroes for playing just the chorus that evening! That was classic Maynard.

It was Swami, him, and his love for Swami and Swami's love for him that made us a bunch of heroes that night. People commended his playing and they were repeatedly appreciative that he got the three of us to play his instrument with him. MF seemed ecstatic about this as well.

That trait - of teaching, of giving himself selflessly and of making something grand out of almost nothing, was what probably epitomized most of what he did around the world. This is especially true for the bunch of us from the prehistoric times of the band in Parthi.

A year or so later, came the shiny new band instruments that he arranged to be sent to the Institute from Yamaha and Holton. Along with them came a whole lot of music and software. There are many memories that begin to well up just thinking of this.

Practice was in the “ad block” those days. Early morning climbs up the hill at an "INDIAN 6:30", with him saying that the climb was good for his lungs. Of huddling up with him in the guest room of the hostel and asking all kinds of questions about the road trips, the BUS, the blues, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, his Japanese bows, mouth pieces, his tone deaf brother, his pranayama, his suddenly breaking off in the middle of a sentence to speak to the omnipresent Swami in the room! After dinner we gorged pastries and were strictly instructed that Mrs. Ferguson was not to be told anything about it!

Once MF told my grandfather that I was like a son to him. My grandfather got so concerned that a few days later he gingerly approached MF to make sure that I didn't end up joining his band. This incident sent us all howling with laughter!!

The list is endless.

After Maynard arranged the new band instruments, a new era dawned upon us. With his continuous teaching and guidance the performance of the band improved ever year to the extent that today it is, without a shred of doubt, the best university brass band in our country. That he was able to catalyze the creation of the Band and turn it into such a potent creative force is really remarkable. This has not only given much joy to Swami but also afforded a rare opportunity to all the band members. Herein lies the profoundness of what he did for us.

He will have a place in our hearts for eternity and the large hearted person that he was, I do hope that we have our place in his as well.

Thank you Swami for blessing us with him!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Suresh R
Trumpet, Baritone
1992- 1999

If I remember right, the start of my third year in the band marked the return of MF to Prashanthi Nilayam. He had not visited Parthi for sometime. The thirty of us were playing Cherry Pink (and the apple blossoms white) for the first time. Hearing us MF took out his trumpet and improvised on top of us. Man! We never heard such wonderful music and the guys in the hostel said that they could hear MF more clearly than all of us!

I do not know how many of us remember that we used to give him black coffee every night after practice. One night after the first few sips Maynard looked confused and wondered why the coffee tasted so different! On investigating we discovered that instead of sugar they had put alum (by mistake – as both look so similar) in the coffee! I guess Mrs. Ferguson got so concerned after this incident that she used to pack his coffee at home!

I was also fortunate to jam with him on my tabla. I think Fido recorded it but I never got to hear the recording. That does not matter as it is still fresh in my heart.

Maynard was so down to earth and concerned about us. I remember him telling us that if anyone of us wanted to come and study music in the US, he would be more than happy to write out a recommendation to some of the best music colleges.

A bunch of us – Ramanan, Fido and myself - were mentioned in his fan club newsletter and he lovingly sent us a copy. I still treasure that copy.

I used to enjoy those walks back to the ashram after practice. Chatting with him on various things. He was always filled with such hilarious stories!

Madhusudan Naidu

I was not one amongst the early band members who were taught by Maynard but fortunately I was not too late either! I did get to see Maynard during one of his last trips to Prashanthi Nilayam.

I was a fresher to the band and was sitting at an apprehensive distance from him in that coveted room filled with his young admirers. I was trying to understand the reason behind the smiles and the glitter in the eyes of all those gathered in the Band room.

“Why are they all so eager and enthusiastic to see Maynard?”, I thought, still trying to comprehend the happenings of that evening.

All of a sudden a beautiful sound from that magical trumpet struck my ears and was heard clearly by my heart. I discovered the meaning behind all the eagerness I had seen earlier and found myself inching closer to him!

I have spent only a few moments with the legend, yet I have heard about him in all the talks and have seen him in all the eyes, time and again. Today I do not feel as sad for having not learnt music from him, as I feel good about having learnt one of the greatest lessons of life from him:

People perish, places are abandoned and empires are erased, yet the only one who lives forever is the one who has made a place in the hearts of people. For he lives on in the stories of the ones whose lives he has touched. He is heard in the voice of those who have heard him and he is seen in the eyes of those who have seen him.

My reverential obeisance to the legendary maestro!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Prem Kumar C.G.

By the time I joined the Institute band, Maynard’s trips to India had become less frequent. I was not among the lucky ones who got the rare honor of playing alongside the Legend. But the few interactions I had with him during his short trips to Prasanthi Nilayam left me mesmerized. He had a zest for life like no other and his happiness was very infectious. We must consider ourselves very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be taught by one of the greatest exponents of Jazz Music.

One incident I do remember is when Maynard had come to the College for our practice session. We were practicing in front of the Computer Lab facing the road, Maynard picked up his trumpet and played a solo. When he finished, we noticed that there was a major traffic jam on the road! People had stopped in their tracks and were craning their necks to see Maynard. All were too stunned to applaud as they had never heard such a beautiful piece studded with such high notes. Frankly, many of us too never knew that a trumpet could ever sound like that.
We miss U Dear Grand Pa.
Ajay Yekkirala

It is a sad event to hear of someone so intricately involved with our band to pass on. Though I was not fortunate enough to have been in the band when he was actively involved, how can I forget the innumerable grooving sessions to "Chameleon", "Gospel John" and "Gonna Fly Now"? I remember being fascinated listening to him as a school boy and that inspired me...not only to want to be in the band and be a part of its rich legacy, but to appreciate the fact that music is an expression of life...and express it happily and uninhibited. Thanks to Bhagawan we have had such interactions with many a stalwarts, but my seniors called MF "Grand Pa" and that to me indicates his contribution. Our band is a high traffic zone, many have come and gone, but all of us will remember him fondly either through personal experience or through the stories passed on. Listening to his music as type this message I realize, the legend lives on......
Gururaj Rai

I joined the band in 1998 and joined the clarinet section . My immediate senior Chandrasekhar, better known as Moon, was an ardent Maynard Fan. Our daily practice sessions of Fireworks Music & Souza Marches would always end with tales of Maynard.

We were next introduced to some Maynard music, the high squeaks and the jazzy beats of These Cats can Swing was something that still rings in my ear and I often play this in my office.

We were always excited to have him with us for the practice sessions and fondly called him “Grandpa”. I remember one evening he arrived dressed in a Hawaiian shirt! This was something we do not usually see in Puttaparthy. He looked really cool! Maynard started the session with his huge bursting laughter and chatter, keeping his right hand up in the air, in a typical Maynard style "this means I am lying".

Those are moments we all cherish. It was amazing to have him play with us for some Christmas Carols. His presence made such a difference to our performance.

Dear Maynard, Your music and the moments spent with us would always be tales that would be told to generation Next.

We miss you Boss......

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sai Srinivasa Raghavan

When I joined the Institute Brass Band, I was given the trumpet to play. As a newbie to western music, I considered myself a misfit for the trumpet. With my inability to learn fast and the amount of expectation on my performance, I was thoroughly de-motivated. For almost 4 to 5 months I could not even get the first note (C) properly. Every day was a nightmare. The days were flying and still I did not find any improvement. I thought of quitting the band but God had other plans!

It was then that I had the opportunity of being taught by Mr. Maynard Ferguson. When I met him for the first time, I had no clue as to how this elderly person could teach us. But I was shocked and awe struck when he straight away played the double C. All my doubts were reduced to ashes and I was very excited to learn this magnificent instrument.
Every time I saw him and heard him, I was motivated. My entire struggle was worth the wait. To be able to finally meet the magnanimous, profound, cheerful,
understanding legend, Maynard Ferguson.

Maynard used to come to our institute every evening and teach us the basics. It was indeed remarkable that such a renowned person was teaching scales to some unknown amateurs in the remote corner of the world. It cannot happen with any other person other than Maynard. He was humility personified. His eagerness to learn at that age amazed each one of us.

These words do not suffice to explain our feelings for our grand father Maynard. People like Maynard come once in a life time and no body can replace him. As a member of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute Brass band and a student of Maynard, I am very sorry and deeply grieved that our grand pa is no more with us. We all pray that his soul rest in peace. He will motivate generations to come with his ever green musical renderings.

With Lots of Love and Reverence,
Sai Srinivasa Raghavan
Chaitanya K
Alto Saxophone
1997 -2005

I would say that Maynard made me feel "music is fun". It was a sort of invitation, one that said, "Look ! I am having fun with this and so can you". I now think that it was more than that. For him life was all about doing what he loved, which of course was music. Something like "you can bake your cake and eat it too".

One particular year, during sports meet, when the Band boys were marching in procession behind Sai Gita (the ceremonial elephant) at the Hill View Stadium, she decided to ease herself! You can imagine seeing Ganga and Yamuna flowing on the road. The band boys couldn't help but march on this “deluge”! Seeing this Maynard remarked, "Thank God, elephants don't fly!"

On another occasion he enthralled us with stories of how on his visit to Thailand he had jammed with His majesty the King of Thailand.

Maynard will be remembered for his infectious love for life, humor, laughter, wit and his dedication to an art form that is dear to all of our hearts.
Ketan Handa
First Trombone

All of us who learnt music and interacted with Maynard Ferguson will agree that he was a wonderful person. In my five years with the Institute Brass Band while playing first Trombone, I had the opportunity to interact with Maynard a number of times.

Bhagwan (Sri Sri Sathya Sai Baba) tells us to be always happy and Maynard was just that. He was always very happy to be at Prasanthi Nilayam in Bhagwan's proximity. For him teaching Swami's Band boys was like a sacred task. He was always patient and full of encouragement for us. Imagine somebody of his stature playing your first trombone music so that you get it right as a band. In my first year when I did not know how to read music notes. He wrote the trombone positions like 1 for C, 2 for D and so on for my entire music sheet. In fact he did the same for Baritones, Trumpets, Saxophones, Clarinet etc.

He would always conclude the band practice sessions with hilarious anecdotes from his own career - How once he made a horrendous mistake on stage and people actually thought that it was his master stroke of brilliant music- It was all to teach us that no one is perfect but that mastery lies in keeping one’s presence of mind while performing.

On the night before a concert he would always advice us not to practice too much, just like Bhagwan tells us not to leave everything for the last moment. On such occasions, he would close the practice session early and tell us to have a good night sleep and be fresh for the performance.

White snowy hair and a Santa like big belly, he always used to be at his cheerful best while teaching us music. I am sure that all the band boys new and old are infinitely sad to hear of his demise. May his soul always rest in peace!
Jayaram B
1st Trumpet
1997 – 2001

It was only after I met and heard Maynard Ferguson that I realized what a trumpet could sound like. I was hooked to “God’s own” instrument.

We always looked forward to his visits to Puttaparthy. Each visit would bring with it loads of fun, music, new experiences and lessons for all of us.

It was my first year in the band and Maynard suggested we play "Gonna Fly Now" his Grammy nominated piece. We were all struggling to play that piece as the beat was not familiar. Too many off beats left many of us in total confusion. At this point Maynard stepped in and played the piece slowly for each and every instrument, just to give us an idea of how the piece sounded. This showed how much patience and interest he had in our learning to play.

Practice for the day was over and I was hoping to get a few personal tips (who wouldn't want to?) from Maynard. DJ initiated the conversation and he asked me to play scales. I did hit the double C and felt happy. But Maynard was outright in telling me that I sounded like a kindergarten girl. His first advice to me was to blow the trumpet with a lot of energy but not blare at the same time. He even demonstrated that. Then I remember he turned to DJ and told him, "This guy has got range, use him for high ranged pieces". That was an inspiration. I practiced on my sound quality. Next year when he visited, we played "Semper Fidelis". Looking at me he commented, "Now you sound more open and bold, keep the quality". I had no clue when he had noticed but his feedback made all the difference.

Those moments with Maynard are unforgettable. For a man with so much of passion for the trumpet, his versatility with other instruments only taught us how much commitment and love he had for music. He had the enthusiasm of a child. For someone so well known and famous, Maynard was humble, devoted and made everyone feel important.

Today my passion for the trumpet is due to Maynard. I loved to hear him play on the Fugel Horn. It sounded so romantic!
R. Ramakrishnan (a.k.a. shyam junior)
1997 - 2000

Maynard and his wife had once visited the Rishi Valley School. In his honor a classical veena recital was organized in the school auditorium. After the initial ten-minute "performance", Maynard was so impressed by the quality of sound and the finesse of the veena player that he rose to his feet and congratulated the artist. To his utter amazement he was informed that she had only been tuning the instrument!

Oh boy, I can still vividly recollect Maynard laughing heartily while recollecting this incident! But what really left an impression on me was Maynard’s humility at laughing at his own mistake – amongst all of us - school kids.