Gift of saxophone invigorates spirit of Hope student

This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore columns by local residents about their lives.

During the stressful week of final exams, I was shocked to hear from my professor, Dr. Jordan VanHemert, that Mary Toppen-Palma was looking for someone to rehome the saxophone of her late husband, Dr. Robert J. Palma.

Mary Toppen-Palma, the widow of a Hope College religion professor, donated a saxaphone to music performance major Houston Patton.
Initially, I was under the impression that I was going to have to buy the saxophone, but Dr. VanHemert told me that Toppen-Palma was willing to donate the horn after he told her that he knew a student was in need of a new saxophone.

This was very astonishing, and I was overjoyed to accept this gift. As a saxophone performance major, I need to have an instrument that won’t hold me back, and this horn definitely does not hold me back. I think it makes me sound even better.

Great things happen

I had a saxophone before this one, but it was not in good shape. Money has been tight for me and my family, so I could not afford a new horn. I have always heard stories about people receiving saxophones as gifts, and I always wondered if something like that would happen to me, and surely it did.

When great things like this happen, it is really hard to put into words how happy you truly are. For me, the best way for me to show my gratitude is to play my very best every time I play on this horn.

This gift has invigorated my spirit, enhanced my playing, and changed my life. As I go through life, my musicianship shapes and grows along with the things I learn and experience. Because of this particular experience, I want to carry my joy and gratitude into my playing.

Have hope

I know 2020 was a very hard year for a lot of people, including myself. But, I encourage everyone to reflect on all of the great things that happened and to keep the faith and have hope. Moments like these may not happen often, but they will happen. And when they do, don’t take them for granted. Remember moments like these to help put a smile on your face when you are feeling down.
Hope College sophomore Houston Patton received the gift of a new saxaphone.
Unfortunately, I was never able to meet Dr. Palma, but I have read and heard that he was an amazing man of God, and I hope to carry on his legacy through his saxophone. Every time I pick up this horn, I am reminded of God's blessings, and the wonderful gift from Mary and Robert Palma.

I am very saddened about the passing of Dr. Palma, especially because I really wish I could have had at least one conversation with him, but hopefully, my playing can reach him in the heavens.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Dr. Robert Palma, for leaving behind such a great legacy. Thank you, Marry Toppen-Palma, for your unmatched generosity, and for trusting me with such an exquisite gift. Thank you, Dr. VanHemert, for all that you teach and do for me, and also for thinking of me when you heard about the horn. And lastly, I would like to thank God for all of his blessings.

Houston Patton is currently a sophomore at Hope College. He is a saxophone performance and computer science major.