Gary started his musical journey at a very young age in the 4th Grade. He first saw a school assembly where a traveling music teacher came to his school to demonstrate all of the band instruments to get children interested in music. When Gary heard this music teacher play fun, cartoon music tunes on various instruments, it was that day that Gary ran home to tell his parents that he wanted to learn how to play an instrument.
After discussing with Gary's parents, it was decided that he would embark on this journey with the Clarinet. Gary's parents rented him a Yamaha Clarinet. It was brought home and in its brand new case, Gary, as a young boy, looked at it bewildered at what to do next. How do you put it together he thought. Knowing nothing and fearing breaking it, he called a young kid that had had his clarinet for a few weeks longer. Gary's mom took him to this kids house and he was then shown how to put it together and at that time, Gary's musical journey took off.
Playing in the Elementary School Band, Gary found that he really loved music. Every musical score and every note was fascinating to Gary (he was even asked to name or title one of the musical scores that the teacher had written and this made Gary so proud to be asked this task). Gary wanted more so he strived to be the best 4th grade clarinetist that he could be. His band teacher recognized Gary's enthusiasm and challenged him to start playing the Alto Clarinet (only the best were asked to do this and only one Alto Clarinet chair was appropriate). The teacher wanted Gary to excel so much that he offered Gary an Alto Clarinet so that he would not have to rent or buy one. Gary was honored and soon after impressing the music teacher with his talents, Gary was asked to join the All City Band in 5th Grade where only the best elementary school kids were invited to take part in this honorable band.
While Gary was a key member of this honorable concert band, the band would travel to various elementary schools to perform concerts and to instill interest in the music program to young children. The band also entered a multi-city competition for the Battle Of The Bands. Gary's All City Band took top place awards home that year. Gary and his family were so proud and this news even hit the local news paper. Gary knew he had discovered a talent that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
Moving on to Jr. High Band, the love of music did not die in Gary's heart. The summer before his 7th Grade Fall Semester was to commence, Gary approached the Music Teacher and asked him if he had an Alto Clarinet that he could use as Gary had to turn in the Alto Clarinet that belonged to the All City Band when he graduated from 6th Grade. The music teacher said no, I don't have an Alto Clarinet but offered Gary a Bass Clarinet instead. Gary took his future music teacher up on that offer but the music teacher had one more surprise in store for Gary. Rather a new challenge, Gary's future 7th Grade music teacher said that he really needs a saxophone player for the up-coming fall semester. Gary knowing nothing about the saxophone explained this to Mr. Savitt (his music teacher). Mr. Savitt said here, here is a book and here is a sax, go home and learn it. Gary reached out his arm and accepted the challenge and knew that he only had the summer months to be ready for the Fall semester band on this unfamiliar instrument called the saxophone. He met that challenge well. Gary's musical journey had now taken shape and had left a slower paced, dusty dirt road and was now on to a faster paced highway (so to speak).
After playing for a while on that worn out Alto sax that the teacher gave Gary to learn on, he asked his Mom to buy him a shiny new Tenor Sax. She pondered the cost, as Gary came from a family with not much money and with both parents working to make ends meet that lived in a low income city on the outskirts of Los Angeles. With much persuasion from Gary, His wonderful Mom finally gave in and bought Gary that shiny new Tenor Sax.
With that shiny new Tenor Sax, Gary proudly marched in the Jr. High Marching Band for 2 years performing in numerous school pep rallies and city parades as his mom sat on the cold, street-side curb cheering him on as he passed by with the band. Gary also played in the Jr. High Jazz Band as the 1st Tenor Sax chair and after proving his advanced talent, he was invited to play in the All Star Band that the music teacher had assembled with the most outstanding musicians that had graduated and had hopes of becoming professional musicians. At the end of his stay in Jr. High, Gary was surprised as he was presented with a large trophy indicating his reward as the “Most Outstanding Musician” in the Jr. High Band. Gary never looked prouder that night.
On to High School, Gary played in various Marching events and football games. After a few years in the High School Band, Gary needed to re-focus his attention to more career oriented goals and he left band with much sadness. The spark for music never died in Gary's heart and he always wanted to return to his love of performing.
Once Gary's career had been established, Gary returned to music as a young adult and started playing in the Church Orchestra at his Church in Long Beach California. Although not geared for saxophone, Gary improvised and played trumpet music on his sax or any music part that would makes sense just to be part of the orchestra. After that, he auditioned for 1st Tenor Sax chair in a traveling Christian Big Band (well it was a small scale Big Band) with horn players and singers. He got the position and Gary absolutely loved this new part of his life and jumped at every chance he could to play and rehearse with this band called “Fortress” based out of Redondo Beach California.
Moving on, while Gary was still in his twenties, he auditioned and got the position to play in a College level Big Band. Eventually moving on to 1st Tenor Sax Chair in this Big Band, Gary spent over 20 more additional years honing his talents under the direction of Ken Miller (The most wonderful and encouraging Band Leader anyone could ever ask for) in this awesome Big Band.
During this 22 year (or more) stint in the Big Band, Gary met wonderful friends. He was invited to play in a traveling Dixieland Band called the Dixie Disciples. Doing concerts, parties, Church performances and park events, Gary loved performing with the Dixie Disciples and learned a new genre of music doing so.
Also during the Big Band years that Gary was involved with, Gary and his saxophone buddies went to a well know Jazz Camp/School in Washington State near Seattle. It was there that he preformed in the Port Townsend Jazz Festival. Again, Gary was a proud saxophone player.
Weddings, Coffee House and book store performances, Various Church Bands, small jazz combos, studio sessions and rock bands were all familiar avenues that Gary was involved with during his life's musical journey including a performance at the world famous Roxy Theater on Sunset Strip in Hollywood.
Gary's thirst for the saxophone was not quenched at just performing on it, his love for the Saxophone blossomed to the art of Saxophone Repair and Gary took a lengthy college level course in the art of musical instrument repair. At one point, he started his own home-based repair business and has maintained and repaired many saxophones throughout the years.
Gary wanted more from his life as a musician and never knew what that might lead to until Grand Daddy Jack band entered into his life. The nice people, the encouragement, the music, the challenges and the thrill of performing with such high level musicians brought Gary to his current resting place as he had finally found the band that he had been in search of all of these years.
Gary's goal for and with Grand Daddy Jack is to put a smile on your face when you are down. To cause tingles to penetrate your spine when he delivers a well crafted solo. To put a tear in your eye when the chords or words of a song touches your heart as Grand Daddy Jack so eloquently delivers them to the depth of your soul. To cause a shy one to get up and dance in front of everyone. To bring unforgettable memories to your event like no other can as you stand back and watch in amazement.
Now come rest and enjoy the sounds of Grand Daddy Jack with him.
Find out more about Mr. Gary Markarian here:
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(Photos by Jon Haverstick, Guinevere King, Emo Alaeddin, Bob Reeves and Patricia Sweeny)