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“Billy’s never met a surface without a tempo or a stick without a beat. Since the day he was born, he’s been tapping, beating or pounding on everything.” — Gloria Saxton
William “Billy” Saxton
8th grader | Roosevelt MS, (IL)

Music runs deep in the Saxton family—his mom, Gloria, is a retired concert flutist, and dad, Kevin, a drummer, frequently reminds his kids that his college band was, “this close to making it.” William is the youngest of four creative Saxton kids.  In addition to his genetic capacity for rhythm, he’s also discovered a new love—mathematics  in music.

 

How did you get involved in the local high school jazz band as a middle schooler?

My grandfather claims that he was first to point out my skills. He was listening to the radio and I guess I was keeping time with Buddy Rich in a Count Basie song. I was using my fork and spoon, banging on my highchair and he yelled to my dad “Good Lord, Kevin, Billy’s got swing!”

 

 

Dr. Hamilton, the high school band director, heard me play at our end-of-the-year spring review. He came up to me after and said he’d never heard a high schooler play like that, much less a middle schooler.  He really flipped out when I told him I was a seventh grader.

I thought he was just being nice but when he called my parents that weekend and asked if I could sit in with the high school summer Jazz band, I thought, wow!  Mom was worried ‘cuz she saw Whiplash, but Dr. H is cool.  

“I’ve known billy since I heard him play lick like Lionel Hampton! I thought, holy @#!$ Is this kid really only 14?! Then I found out he was 13!”—Dr. Dale Hamilton, High School Band Director

 

How do you use bulb with your band activities?

Dr. Hamilton always preaches the importance of reflection and encourages us to go back and watch all of our performances.  I used to have a hard time keeping track of all the recordings, but now I put everything in bulb.

I make collections so that the best performances can be shared publicly, but I still keep all the other stuff I’m working on too. Doesn’t matter if it’s a performance, a chair test or a weekend sight reading competition. Sometimes I listen to old stuff to see how much better I’ve gotten.  I even have a bulb collection of my favorite Buddy Rich videos and other great jazz drummers’ videos.

 

You’ve discovered all sorts of connections between math and music. How do you use bulb for exploring that?

Yeah, a year or so ago, one of the drummers I follow on Youtube linked an article in his video to explain a certain technique—mathematically. He  talked about the idea of math in drumming. I had never heard anyone make that connection.

I’ve always been decent at math, but never found it that interesting. So I decided I would just grab all the stuff I liked and put it in a bulb collection.

At some point, a band friend saw the collection and shared it with Dr. H. He asked if it was okay to share my collection. Before I knew it all the math teachers had seen it. They all loved it and even ended up showing it at their district math conference. That bulb collection has over a thousands likes!

 

“When I first heard about Billy’s math and music bulb collection, I thought it might have a couple of fun links. Was I surprised?! I discovered that his collection covers everything from Pythagorean mathematics of drumming, complete with his comments and reaction.” –Mr. Collins, Billy’s Middle School Math Teacher

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