AS human beings, we are wired for connection. We connect with people in all sorts of ways. My way is through music.
You’ve probably seen me performing outside TD Garden after a game or concert. Maybe you’ve seen me playing at a wedding. Or perhaps a private party, corporate event, or out in the Public Garden.
My name is Joe Sparkes, but as a musician, I’m known as Joe Sax Boston. And my favorite thing in life, besides my daughter Asha, is connecting with people through music.
Learning how to do that has been a journey and an adventure. I grew up playing oboe, but at the end of High School, I switched to saxophone. I played in a band called Traveling Matt for several years during and after college. But once that time ended, I put the saxophone away in its case and didn’t open it again for fifteen years.
Then, on an unusually warm day in January 2017, I was in Boston with my then-5-year-old daughter. We saw someone street performing on saxophone outside the New England Aquarium. I thought to myself “I bet I could do that” and a few days later I dusted off the sax and went to where I knew there would be lots of people, TD Garden!
Little did I know at the time, that would be the start of a musical adventure that I expect will continue for the rest of my life.
In the seven years I’ve been back playing saxophone as Joe Sax Boston, I’ve performed at over 600 games and concerts at TD Garden, which has come to feel like home. At this point, I feel like I’m part of the extended families of the Bruins and Celtics. I’ve twice performed the National Anthem for the Celtics and was onstage recently at the Bruins 100th Anniversary Gala at the Fairmont Copley Plaza.
I never expected performing at TD Garden would lead to so many other playing opportunities: an event for Saucony at the Boston Marathon, a gala on the Esplanade, twice performing in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Southie (thanks to Irish American Whiskey) just to name a few.
And then came the weddings! Couples started approaching me about playing their weddings, which I was happy and honored to do. That also gave me an opportunity to work alongside DJs. Jimmie Espo of 617 Weddings was (and still is) a huge help and sounding board.
In addition, I frequently find myself performing at various restaurants, private events, house parties, and more. But whether a huge gala with over a thousand guests, or a backyard party playing for people sitting around a bonfire, I absolutely love every chance I get to play music for people.
I’m so grateful that the opportunities keep coming. To this point, I’ve been pursuing music while also working a day job in Corporate Finance. But with the printing of this feature, I’m excited to officially announce that as of this coming April, I’ll be leaving my day job behind and putting 100% of my efforts into music!
But it all comes back to that connection music provides. When I perform, I put my heart into my playing, but it doesn’t mean much if there aren’t people hearing it and being affected in a positive way.
One very special connection that has been enhanced by music is the one I have with my daughter, Asha. She’s 12 years old and currently in her third year playing saxophone. We have lessons together every week, and she plays in three bands at school. I’ll never push it on her at all, but she has an undeniable gift and passion for music herself and says she wants to pursue music. So perhaps one of these days, people will get a chance to see us perform together!
I’ve learned so much from this journey, and the relationships that have come from it. Thanks to Matt Ribaudo and BostonMan Magazine for giving me the opportunity to share my story and passion!