Ashlanders: Paul Schmeling

A schoolboy crush launched Paul Schmeling's interest in the saxophone. Although his fourth-grade romance didn't last, his passion for music has endured.

Schmeling and his band, the Paul Schmeling Trio, play regular gigs at Alex's and Martino's, where patrons are treated to smooth jazz, torch ballads and contemporary tunes.

Schmeling, now 50 years old, was raised in Ashland since he was 10. He says one of the joys he takes in being a musician is simply being with musicians.

"I just like hanging around with musicians," he said. "Remember when you were young and someone said, 'You're too old for that toy' and took it away? That doesn't happen to musicians. They get to play with their toys their whole lives. This gives musicians childlike personalities that makes them fun to be with."

Schmeling admits that playing music, holding down his job as a bartender at Martino's and raising a young daughter can be a lot to juggle. Yet, somehow, he manages to build an improvised sax solo, make a perfect martini and teach his daughter to ride a bike.

Schmeling took some time to talk with the Daily Tidings about the pleasure he takes in music and the daily joys of being with his wife and daughter.

DT: How did you get started playing saxophone?

PS: My mom made me take her old alto saxophone to Walker Elementary School when I was 10 years old. Band was offered to anyone with an instrument. The sax was heavy and I hated carrying it, but when I went to band class, the only other sax player was a pretty girl named Sheri. And I sat right next to her. I went every time after that. Eventually, I came to like playing for itself and played in the concert band and jazz ensembles in junior high, high school and college. In college, I started playing in bar bands and, throughout the years, played classic rock, modern rock, reggae, blues and finally jazz.

DT: Who are your musical influences?

PS: Most of the sax players I listen to are dead. No offense to any of the living, but I like guys like Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons. Dexter Gordon's "Ballads" and Gene Ammons' "Boss Tenor" are worth buying.

DT: What is one of your biggest challenges?

PS: Finding time in my life to practice. I am by no means as accomplished as I want to be and it takes months, sometimes years, to get a scale to the point where I can use it comfortably in improvisation.

DT: Talk about your band.

PS: Michael Barth, the bass player, Tim Church, the guitar player, and I were playing little gigs here and there, most notably in Sunday afternoons at the Avalon in Talent. A little over two years ago, a friend of mine, Aisha Wand, asked me if her daughter, Calysta, could sing with us. She sat in with us on the day before her 16th birthday and it sounded so nice that I made a mental note to myself. A year later, we got a steady gig at Chateaulin restaurant and added her permanently. At least, until she goes to college in September.

DT: What kind of music do you generally play?

PS: We like to play music from the '40s, '50s and '60s, with some pop thrown in. We lean toward more melodic tunes. We're a nice, quiet, pretty little lounge act.

DT: Is it difficult balancing work, music and family responsibilities?

PS: Yes, it's hard sometimes. Like last night, I could have played my horn. Maybe I should have. But I played cards, Crazy Eights, with my daughter, Daisy.

DT: Tell us about your family.

PS: We have a very loving family. There's just the three of us, Alicia, my partner, and our daughter, Daisy.

DT: What do you like to do in your spare time?

PS: I mountain bike and lift weights at the Y. I like to think I can write, so I write a story once in a while. I'm also teaching my daughter, Daisy, how to swim, play the piano and ride a bike.

DT: Talk about family member who has influenced you.

PS: My father and my mother. I know everybody probably says that, but they work well together. And they have always worked hard. There are many things I've learned from them, but the work ethic and the basic respect for life and other people are two of the most important things.

The Paul Schmeling Trio performs Mondays at Martino's at 8 p.m., and the first and third Thursdays of the month at Alex's at 8 p.m. For more information, call Martino's at (541) 488-4420 or Alex's at (541) 482-8818.

Angela Howe-Decker is freelance writer living in Ashland. She can be contacted at

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