Enrico Marongiu, Software Developer on Playing the Saxophone

One part Project Manager, one part Software Developer, one part Saxophone Player and two shots of fatherhood. “Shaken, not stirred” – that’s me, Enrico. Born and raised in Cagliari, I studied Electronic Engineering and from then onwards I was ruined; fascinated by various technologies and how beautiful the world of development is.

What I love to do in my spare time is to fill it up until there’s no time to spare. I love sharing experiences with my kids. (My secret desire is to have a jam session with them when they’re older!)

I used to play bass when I was at high school and university, but I always desired to emulate the sounds of the big jazz orchestras. I happened to fall in love with the Pink Floyd ‘Us and Them’ sax solo and after many years, I had a desire to get back to playing music and I felt that my instrument of choice should be the saxophone this time. I was a fully grown man of 38 wanting to play jazz standards with a saxophone!

Unfortunately, playing the saxophone wasn’t too easy, especially when you are a middle-aged man, but having lots of patience to study and practice the instrument helped me a lot.

From my experience, adults who have learnt to play as a child are much more flexible and improve faster than those who did not. Nevertheless, it’s never too late to start playing an instrument, whatever it is. Of course beginning to play the saxophone at the age of 40 won’t make you a Charlie Parker, but you will enjoy new challenges and new rewards.

Progress was slow, exiting the comfort zone (that is to say, the zone where you DO NOT learn) was hard on my own and I used to play at night, when I was really tired. For this reason, I thought that I should find a way to improve on playing the saxophone – while also improving the rewards.

I started participating at some jazz workshops (with shaking hands), but wasn’t yet able to play very well. Eventually, I was invited to play a few songs at a ‘jam session’ by a course mate.

Everyone was telling me “You should play in a band so that you’ll improve”.  I’ve been playing in the band for four years now. It was really hard to play with a band that was already formed but they had the patience to let me fail, fall down and stand up again many times.

Three components of the band used to perform in public to get funds for hospital-focused charities. It happens once or twice a year that we are called to perform in public. When we receive an invitation, we start preparing our list of songs together – “cut there, add here, how’s the ending of that?” and so on.

There may be stressful moments rehearsing but eventually we get fantastic rewards; getting to see people enjoying the outcome of our efforts. Every time we perform in public we see a much more steep advancement in our skills, both as individuals and as a group.

In terms of musicians I admire, I’ve never been a big fan of particular groups over the years – I’ve never torn off my t-shirt at concerts! I have always preferred to experience the close proximity of performers. You’ll only find me listening at live performances when I can touch the stage, or where a stage isn’t present at all!

Often I happen to focus on one specific performer at a time, in a quite exclusive way. I started with the most famous saxophone players, say John Coltrane, Paul Desmond and Phil Woods, but one of the most enthralling for my soul is Wayne Shorter. A genius who traversed four generations of music performers and lots of genres, from the ‘innovative tradition’ of hard bop to fusion, a player who really knows the world.

I believe that having music as a creative outlet is of benefit to my technology career. Playing a musical instrument is considered a valuable resource for creativity and for L-R brain mode switching, i.e. the capability of moving from the analytical, detail-obsessed, rational modus operandi of the ‘left’ brain to the more artistic, synthetic, helicopter-perspective way of thinking of the ‘right’ brain.

For me, creativity is a valuable moment of killing all processes. After good sessions, I’m much more ‘free’ in the flow of rational thoughts. Interestingly, if I think of a live performance and the way I prepare myself for it, I find several similarities with the typical process of releasing software.

The rehearsal moment looks a lot like a planning or integration meeting, where all the cross functional resources self organize to achieve the common goal. Let’s not say that music is like scrum, but I think that scrum processes are a metaphor of a good groove on which musicians play their stuff.

In terms of the music that I’m into right now, I’ve been having a crush on Herbie Hancock lately and I’m currently listening to “You’ll know when you get there”, a psychedelic song full of stems. It’s inspirational and relaxing.

If I have to choose my favourite album to listen to, then I’ll go to my old love “Reflections in Blue” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

Below is a charity performance from my band 554 Jazz, if you would like to hear more, check out 554jazz.com

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