Off Beat: Local music teacher riffs on very special saxophone, Dale Beacock

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Dale Beacock left his mark on a lot of musical lives in Clark County … and on Mark Davey’s tenor saxophone.

Beacock was a longtime Vancouver musician, educator and businessman, and those aspects of his life were celebrated Friday in a memorial service at Clark College.

But reactions actually started pouring in a week earlier, hours after Beacock’s death in a bicycling accident on Aug. 4 was reported. It was The Columbian’s most-read online story last week, with tributes and condolences to match.

A notable contribution was posted by Davey. The Shahala Middle School band teacher explained that he bought Beacock’s tenor sax about three years ago. “Tonight, I will play it at my gig,” Davey wrote, “and I will be thinking of him.”

Davey, who plays in 5 Guys Named Moe, filled in the story a few days ago.

Davey and Beacock had performed together in local reed sections, including the Southwest Washington Wind Symphony. At some point, “We probably shared a music stand,” said Davey, who is heading into his 11th year at Evergreen’s Shahala Middle School.

“I knew he had a nice Selmer saxophone. He bought it when he got out of the service in 1955,” Davey said. “It’s still the best ever made, and they haven’t made them in years.

“Very few people have had a one-owner horn since 1955. I was told one day that Dale was going to sell his tenor sax. I went in, and I took it home and played it, and it was so fabulous.

“It was well-worn,” Davey noted. “There are spots where you place your hand every time, and the lacquer is worn down to bare metal. That gives it a cool patina. The player who does that puts his mark on the horn.

“Even before he passed, I’d look at the horn and I knew he bought it blemish-free.”

And now, 56 years later, he said, “It’s got Dale’s marks on it. It’s obvious it was well-played, well-loved, well-worn.”

Davey even showed it off in school after he bought it, illustrating how music can link several generations of players.

“I stood up in front of several band classes: ‘You guys know Beacock Music store; this was his horn until last month.’ All the kids were very impressed. They could see I was as proud as I could be,” he said.

— Tom Vogt

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.