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Ralph Rayner, Arranger and multi-instrumentalist
Ralph began his musical career early in life on a "Song Flute" with an "octave plus one" of notes. He uses a lot more than that now...

My first musical instrument was a Song Flute, a straight black plastic instrument with a range of one octave plus a note. I think my Mother bought it for me because I was always whistling popular tunes of the day. I was probably about 8. I played it a lot. I tried taking trumpet lessons, maybe when I was 10. Didn't pan out. And I really disliked the scent of valve oil. Somewhere around the age of 12, my Father gave me a C-Melody Saxophone that he had bought from a co-worker. I enjoyed playing around with it. I didn't take lessons, but I had a fingering chart and the fingering was very similar to the Song Flute.

In High School, I got together with three other kids, trumpet, piano and drums and played in our Traveling Assembly, going to other High Schools. Our first "hit" was Rock Around the Clock. We started working "gigs" as we improved. Somewhere along that time, I got a Tenor Saxophone and took lessons for a while from "Boots" Mussulli, a local jazz legend. After bombing at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (thought I might be a physicist - HAH!) and working some really dead end jobs, I decided to attend what was then called The Berklee School of Music (now, Berklee College of Music).  

I was a music composition major at Berklee and managed to get 2-1/2 years of credits. I was working in a rock and roll band in the "Combat Zone" in Boston - 7 nights a week, plus matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. I was worn out and started cutting classes, and eventually lost my Student Deferment status with Uncle Sam. As I was about to be drafted, I quickly drove to Washington, DC, and auditioned for the USAF Band. After Basic Training, I was assigned to the Headquarters Command Band in DC and played in parades, funerals, arrivals and departures of dignitaries, etc. Just like at Berklee, if I wanted gigs in my free time, I had to book, them, so I started out with a quartet. But all the while, I had a practice band going in my free time, writing arrangements for trumpet, tenor sax, trombone and baritone sax, plus rhythm section. I guess the grapevine spread the word to the Chief of the USAF Band Arranging Staff, Floyd Werle, and I was given a transfer to the Arranging Staff. While on the Staff, I wrote primarily for the USAF Band Radio Program, Serenade in Blue (SIB), which featured the USAF Band's Jazz Band, The Airmen of Note (AoN) plus a full compliment of strings, woodwinds and percussion. I also did several arrangements exclusively for AoN, and one collaboration score for strings and the Band's Male Chorus, The Singing Sergeants.

After I separated from the Air Force, I went to work for IBM, and enjoyed a long, successful career. I left music alone for pretty much all of my IBM career, although I did own a piano for a while and bought a guitar, which I learned to play well enough to not get thrown out of Open Mike Night, although I never learned to play it well. I always thought that after I retired, I might like to start a rehearsal band and start writing again. After I retired, five years went by, and I hadn't done anything with music, until one day, we had lunch in the neighborhood of a Pawn Shop, and I mentioned to my wife, Cynthia, that I'd played with the idea of seeing if they had Flutes for sale. They did. She bought me one for my birthday. I also bought a soprano saxophone, which I had been wanting for years.

After getting my two new instruments, my wife also told me that she would be willing to try to learn how to read music and learn to play her soprano recorder that she'd bought 30 years ago. She says that the only thing she'd ever learned to play was the radio. And, of course, I was to be the instructor.

Ralph Rayner on clavinovaRight about the same time, she encouraged me to further pursue the Musician's Work Station that I'd been fantasizing about for years. To cut this tale short, we bought a very nice Yamaha Clavinova CVP-405, with the intention of my beginning to write music again. Coupling this with my wife's learning to read, I needed a means of easily putting these things on paper and test-drove four different freeware notation programs. I chose one which was adequate, but limited. By following discussion threads on the Yamaha site, I learned about Notation Composer, and I have been happily using it since, writing recorder songs for my wife and recorder duets for the two of us. I've also been entering some of my old USAF Band arrangements, along with my old septet arrangements, into Notation Composer (these can be found in the "Share Your Music" section of the Notation Software Users Forum), exporting them as midi files and carrying them to my Clavinova for full midi sound. One of these days, I'll have a PC connected to the Clavinova, but not yet. Meanwhile, I'm having a ball in revisiting my past and preparing myself for forging new ground with new material in the future.