The 28th Annual San Jose SaxMas happened

By Ande Jacobson

The 28th Annual San Jose Saxophone Christmas (or SaxMas to the initiated) took place on 17 December 2022. It was a tad smaller than it had been a few years ago, but it was energetic and festive nonetheless. There’s something special about so many saxophone enthusiasts coming together to make holiday music just for the fun of it.

The players came together in the morning to run through the charts, and then they gave two concerts in the afternoon. The first one was held at San Jose’s Christmas in the Park. The second concert was held at San Jose’s Eastridge Mall.

For the uninitiated, what is SJ SaxMas? It’s the annual event (except for 2020 due to the pandemic) where saxophonists of all shapes and sizes come together to play saxophones of all shapes and sizes including:

  • Soprillos (the smallest commercial saxophone made);
  • Sopraninos;
  • Sopranos in various keys and configurations;
  • Altos (the most common saxophones in schools);
  • C melody saxes;
  • Tenors (the second most common saxophones in schools);
  • Baritones (they dance);
  • Sarrusophones;
  • Basses;
  • And sometimes a contrabass or two.

Players of all levels are welcome.

Ray Bernd is the man behind, in front of, and living Saxophone Christmas all year around to make this event happen. He’s the guy madly waving his arms in front of the ensemble.

Pre-pandemic, there were usually over 200 players in any given year. This year, there were just north of 160, but fun was had by all, and the sound was spectacular.

Here’s the Eastridge concert of the 2022 San Jose SaxMas (recorded by Kevin Stopper):

Pre-pandemic, I played in this event from 2002 – 2019. Based on the video, I actually prefer the smaller ensemble (if you can call 160 musicians a small ensemble).

If you’re interested in participating in the future, the event takes place in San Jose on the third Saturday of December each year. The next one will be held on 16 December 2023. See for more information about Saxophone Christmas. Registration normally opens at the beginning of November. There’s also a similar, albeit newer and slightly smaller, event in the Sacramento area on the first Saturday of December. That one held its 10th annual event earlier this month.

For a comparison to a couple of previous SaxMasses, here’s the 2021 Eastridge concert with the smallest recent ensemble.

And for a look at the pre-pandemic version, here’s a link to the 2019 monster ensemble of 226 saxophones playing one of my favorite numbers. This was the last SaxMas I played in. I’m in the front row third from the right end of that curved row in the Harris Tweed cap.

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