Flanagan Anderson is a junior at Hillsdale College. This interview has been edited for length.
When did you start playing the saxophone?
Freshman year of highschool. I learned how to play over the summer. I went up to Pat Love, our music director, and said, ‘Hey, can I be in a jazz band as a clarinetist?’ And he said, ‘No, you need to learn saxophone.’ At first I was very upset, but I learned and it got way better.
Why do people love the saxophone so much?
‘Careless Whisper’, a George Michael song. It’s got a jazz riff in there. It’s smooth, it gets people excited, and if I’m being straight up, the saxophone is a very sexy instrument.
What’s an unexpected part about playing the saxophone?
There are four types of saxophone: alto, baritone, soprano, and tenor. The surprising thing is that all the fingerings are exactly the same. If you learn one, you can play all four.
What’s a fun fact about the saxophone?
You can do this technique called growling which distorts the sound and makes it sound kind of like guitar reverb.
Are you a part of any bands on campus?
Hillsdale College Jazz Big Band. I also made an appearance with the student band Full House at a toga party, but I can’t say I’m an official member yet.
When you started playing on the steps of Central Hall, did you expect it to turn into a one-man concert?
No, that’s my outlet. That’s how I pull off some steam. Of course, I was aware that I’d gained attention, but I was doing it because life is short and you only get so many days to play.
You are also one of Hillsdale’s known skateboarders. Is skateboarding the most efficient way to traverse campus?
It’s 100% the most efficient way. It’s a seven minute commute to walk from Simpson to Lane or Kendall. It is a two minute skateboard route. Skateboards can go around 10 to 14 mph. One time I was clocking it down a hill, and Security pulled up behind me. They passed me, slowed down, rolled down the windows, and said, “You’re going 17!’
What sort of tricks can you do on the skateboard?
I recently learned how to do this trick where I take the skateboard, I throw it in the air as I jump on top of it and then land on top of it. You’re on the board for a good two and half feet before it hits the ground. I’ve also jumped over the picnic table while the board goes under and then jumped back on.
How did you learn to skateboard?
I picked it up in the seventh grade. I was with a friend of mine who kind of peer pressured me into getting good. He took me to the top of a really steep hill and said ‘Just go for it, you’ll be fine.’ I trusted him and midway, there was some sort of click where I almost fell off, but I didn’t. After that, my confidence went way up. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Is it possible to skateboard while playing the saxophone?
I know it’s possible to play the saxophone while skateboarding because I’ve done it before. It was to that same song, ‘Careless Whispers’. I was with Shannon Peterson and another fellow. I brought out the saxophone while I went on my skateboard for a good five feet. Considering that the instrument is expensive, I did get off before anything bad happened.
If you had to give up skateboarding or the saxophone, which one would you choose to give up?
Saxophone. Give me skateboarding. There’s nothing like kicking tunes at 10:30 at night — INXS, an Australian band — and zooming around campus at a good 12 or 15 miles an hour while you synchronize your push to the beat of the song.