MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Imagine thousands of people listening to every note coming out of your saxophone as you perform in front families celebrating their nation’s Independence Day. They’re feeling all the emotion from every note you play and watching all the energy you put into them. That’s what Cpl. Ritchel L. Lawson, a musician with the 2nd Marine Division band, did during his solo performance, a life-long dream, as our nation celebrated its independence.
Thousands gathered at the W.P.T. Hill field here to watch fireworks and listen to a concert by the 2nd Marine Division band at the Fourth of July celebration, as Lawson prepared for the biggest performance of his life.
“I was nervous to say the least,” expressed Lawson, a Monroe, Mich., native. “I’ve never performed a solo in front of that many people before.”
Thousands of families, who turned out for the performance, placed their lawn chairs and blankets across the field at sunset and the band began to play the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”.
The full moon brightened the night sky as the band’s music ate up the silence. After the first note, the crowd became motionless as they listened to the musicians’ playing.
“It was a great night for a performance like this,” said Anesha R. Evans, a spectator of the concert and avid musician. “It must be a great honor to perform on our nation’s Independence Day, because I know it was a huge honor for me to just listen.”
Lawson could not stop anticipating his solo that crept closer and closer as he played each piece.
“While I was performing the other pieces I could not stop thinking about my solo,” said Lawson.
Lawson said he began to think about all the practice he put into this performance; not just while in the Corps, but almost his entire life.
“I’ve been practicing for a moment like this for more than 10 years,” Lawson said. “I was more than confident in my abilities to perform the piece.”
Lawson has played the alto saxophone since the 7th grade. He was in the Monroe High School band for four years when he decided to join the Corps.
“The Marine Corps band is the best around,” Lawson said. “I wanted to take my skills as a musician and further them in the Corps while serving my country.”
It was time for Lawson to put his skills to work after the third piece ended.
“I don’t know if it was the pieces before or just me being nervous but my mouth felt really dry and you can’t perform with a dry mouth,” Lawson exclaimed.
He thought about all the long hours of practice he had gone through for this moment as he drank some water to get his lips wet. After a few moments, Lawson gave the conductor a nod and the band began to play.
As the notes flowed out of Lawson’s saxophone and into the night sky, the crowd started cheering the man standing center stage like Charlie “The Bird” Parker and other famous alto saxophonists.
“You could tell he was really feeling the music,” said Evans, an Upper Marlboro Md., native, who played the trumpet for Hampton University, Va., for four years. “I think everyone could tell how much effort he was putting into the piece he was playing.”
Lawson performed a piece entitled “Ballad” composed by Alfred Reed.
“I really enjoy performing this piece; it has a lot of emotion that I can express in it,” Lawson said. “I want to tell a story to the audience; I have to make them lean in and want to listen to every note I play.”
“He really pulled me in and made the piece his own while sticking to what was originally written,” said Evans. “He really showed off his talents as a musician and gave a great performance.”
The song ended with roars and applause from the crowd, some even stood to show their appreciation for his performance.
“It has been my dream to play in front of a crowd like this,” expressed Lawson, who hopes to eventually become an enlisted conductor. “To start playing was the hard part, after that, the rest of the concert was a breeze.”