[Youth Competition] Meeting with Jérôme Laran, President of the A.Sax
How was the A.Sax born?
"The Association des Saxophonistes was born in 1997 following the merger of two existing associations: the Association des Saxophonistes de France (AsSaFra) and the Association internationale Pour l'Essor du Saxophone (A.P.E.S).
The AsSaFra, founded in November 1971 under the initiative of Jean-Marie Londeix, is the first association of instrumentalists formed in the world. Its creation is linked to the organization of the World Saxophone Congresses and follows, more particularly, the "2nd World Saxophone Congress" held in Chicago in December 1970. It gathers a large part of the most important personalities of the French saxophone (including the honorary president Marcel Mule) and has as its goal the "Promotion and Defense of the saxophone". Its objectives also include the teaching of the instrument by specialists, but also the integration of the saxophone in orchestras, the enlargement of the repertoire… This association has clearly participated in the change of the situation of the saxophone in the last quarter of the 20th century.
The Association Internationale pour l'Essor du Saxophone was created in 1983 by Serge Bichon. Like its predecessor, the A.P.E.S. publishes two reviews a year, participates in the organization of competitions (Aix-les-Bains, Gap, the national quartet competition of Granges-lès-Valence and the Bernard Vandoren composition competition), and commissions new works… Particular attention is given to the territorial network while developing activities for young saxophonists in particular. Presided by Paul Pareille and then by Claude Delangle, the A.P.E.S. develops its activities through Philippe Lecocq and Roland Pierry. For thirteen years the two historical associations cohabited until they came together for common projects. On November 30, 1996, the two associations APES and AsSaFra merged with the creation of the Association of Saxophonists (A.Sax) that we know nowadays.
Since its creation, the A.Sax has done a lot of work with, in particular, the release of numerous publications including the "Cahiers du Saxophone", the release of several CDs, the organization of events... Claude Delangle, Serge Bertocchi, Jean-Louis Delage and Claude Georgel have succeeded each other as president."
What made you decide to become President of the association?
"When I was young, I was lucky enough to be able to count on dedicated and passionate teachers, who did not hesitate to use their personal vehicle on weekends to take us to competitions or even to participate in master classes in Paris. This is something that made a big impression on me and that I wanted to pass on to others one day… Not always easy in the Paris region!
I thought for a long time before considering to present my candidacy to the presidency as I imagined the magnitude of the task and the considerable amount of work that it would represent… I finally accepted and settled on a new project: to instil a new dynamic and to support the youth and the future of the French saxophone!
To do this, it seemed fundamental to me to recreate the link between the different teachers and schools, to encourage the setting up of a network on the whole territory through the different regional actors, the creation and almost daily update of a website…
This is what we tried to put in place during the weeks leading up to the competition: many hours of meetings in videoconference (health context obliges) first within the office, then with many colleagues in the regions… It is a question of giving back meaning to the associative commitment and to find ourselves around a common objective: the teaching of the instrument. I would like to thank the regional organizers of this competition: Yves Tanguy and Frédéric Basquin (Chéreng), Johann Epenoy (Lorient), Valérie Coustou (Carcassonne), Francis Barrero (Châteauroux), Virginie Fontaine-Bouin (Calais), Safia Azzoug (St-Étienne), Jean-Louis Delage (Saint-Nom-La Bretêche), Eric Lenormand (Bayonne) and Laurent Blanchard (Dôle).
Congrès National © Tous droits réservés A.Sax
The organization of the National Congress which was held in Calais at the end of October 2019 was, without doubt, a federating element and trigger of a new breath within our association. Our team, which has gradually grown over time, represents, I hope, the plurality of the different sensibilities of the saxophone in our country. The board is now composed of Florence Lecocq and Stéphane Sordet (vice-presidents), Virginie Fontaine-Bouin and Olympia Gailing (secretaries) and Yves Hamonic (treasurer)."
Why did you set up this competition for young saxophonists?
"The idea was to organize a saxophone competition for our young students (for the first two cycles of conservatory exclusively) within the A.Sax in the line of the competitions of yesteryear like those of Aix-Les-Bains or Gap in particular.
We finally opted for a competition which took place in three stages:
- Composition competition in October to select the repertoire;
- Selections in the regions (from January to March);
- Final in the Paris region in mid-March.
Coming from a very small village in the Hautes-Pyrénées, I had the chance to be part of a generation which, traditionally, was part of a ready-made course: obtaining the price of instrument in C.R.R or C.R.D, admission to the C.N.S.M.D.P, obtaining the Certificate of Aptitude… This course is far from being obvious nowadays!
Our competition is therefore part of this process of promoting young talents, but it also reflects the diversity of saxophone teaching in our classes. Many children will probably not become musicians, but we want to give them a goal while allowing them to develop through the practice of a musical instrument.
During the final, all twenty-six candidates were extremely well prepared (see website www.asax.fr and pages dedicated to the competition). This competition really motivated them after almost a year without public performance…"
Organizing a competition this year must have been a great challenge?
“Absolutely! The uncertainties have been constant for over a year. We still managed, out of the nine selection centers, to organize eight live sessions… a small feat! But until the day before the final, we didn't know if it would take place normally. In the end, everything went well, to the delight of everyone!
I must thank in particular Jean-Louis Delage (director of the conservatory of Saint-Nom-La-Bretêche) for his trust and the perfect organization of the final in the health context that we know. Without forgetting of course, Gilles Studnia, mayor of Saint-Nom-La-Bretêche, and all the teachers and directors of the structures who welcomed us on the whole territory.
© All rights reserved A.Sax - Photo : Stéphane Sordet
The very tense economic context for the whole of our sector also represented a major source of concern. All these difficulties have welded our team together, and I no longer count the number of hours of meetings, SMS… that we have exchanged. All this on a voluntary basis, of course. No member of the jury being paid, it is the associative spirit in its most altruistic which prevailed!
A very big thank you to all our partners without whom all this could not have existed! Henri SELMER Paris did us the honour of offering a newly launched Axos tenor saxophone for the First Prize of the "End of second cycle" category.
© All rights reserved A.Sax - Photo : Stéphane Sordet
The three selected works are part of a dynamic renewal of the saxophone pedagogical repertoire. These pieces have already been adopted by several structures and it seems that an international competition in Italy is even interested in taking them up again during the next edition in 2022.”
What did you think of this first edition?
“It was intense, it was the first real event in a long time! So there was a lot of joy and emotion in getting together and sharing all those moments through the music played by all those young musicians.
The most impressive thing, without a doubt, is the positive dynamic that the competition has triggered. Here is a small example: a young person, crowned with a very beautiful prize in the final, found a new motivation and even decided to register in the "music" section in high school! Let's hope that this great dynamic will continue over the coming months for all our students!
Vocations have been revealed and we are very happy about that!”
Are there any other contests planned?
“I would like to see this competition continue over time to allow our young people to acquire the experience that is so necessary to perfect their skills as musicians. We will of course continue to rely on the different actors within the regions in order to develop our network throughout the territory. In the longer term, I hope that it will give the desire to some of the laureates to present themselves one day in great international events such as the Andorra Sax Fest or the International Adolphe Sax Competition of Dinant in the future…
We are already preparing the 2022 edition! We will, of course, keep the same philosophy and hope to be able to organize a final with several wind bands. Until then, we will continue our actions on the whole territory while continuing to support the practice of the saxophone in France!
The Saxophonists' Association lives only by memberships, thank you to all those who support, make and keep the association alive!
Thank you all for your support to the A.Sax!”
Interviewed by Henri SELMER Paris on 17/03/2021
Photo credit : © Stéphane Sordet - Video credit : © Vandoren