We Are the Music Makers

The second of the 64 Arts is also musical, this time focusing on played instruments instead of the instrument of our voice.

This makes me happy.

Why? Well, I’m a band geek from way back (okay, technically only as far back as 1987; still, that’s 20+ years of band-related geekiness!). Mom was surprised when I signed up for band instead of chorus when it came time to pick our electives going into middle school. This was done, it should be noted, completely without parental input which does seem a little odd, looking back, but it’s just how it happened.

Mom was surprised because my earlier forays into instrumentation were not what you’d call a success. Recorder (through brownies, I think, it’s a fuzzy memory) was a bust. Guitar in 1st grade? Also not so hot. Piano in 2nd grade? That I was actually good with/at. Until I was busted for playing by number instead of by reading music.

I was not a sneaky kid looking to skate by, but the teacher (Mrs. DeRosier, my 2nd grade teacher who also taught piano out of her home) pointed out that the writers of the beginning piano book put the numbers under each note so that youngsters like me would know which finger to use for which key. This was great on the simpler songs but when my hands were supposed to start traveling? Yup, you guessed it, things went awry. Still, that wasn’t the end of my lessons. No, that end came when we moved and the piano had to be sold.

Such is life.

I still don’t know why I chose band, though, as this was several years removed from my last unfortunate music lesson. Mom fully expected me to sign up for chorus like my friends did but, I think, knowing me as I do, that that was the exact reason why I didn’t. Heaven help me, I was trying like hell to stand out, to be different, even if just a little, tiny bit. That and 6th grade orientation might have been made more impressive by the band playing in the Commons (the combo cafeteria-auditorium of my middle school).

So I joined band and on Day 1 we had to pick an instrument. My first choice was saxophone. Can you blame me? That is one sexy instrument. Unfortunately, they are also expensive and to say we were poor might have been gilding the lily a bit. School instruments it was! And this is how I ended up playing baritone (aka euphonium or the baby tuba for the visually inclined) for the next 20 years, off and on.

A definite plus to the baritone was that it required only 3 keys to play (and a hell of a lot of air). The downside was that it was, at least the ones I learned on, an ugly instrument. The bell screwed on and off. It was huge, heavy and made transporting it on the school bus a pain and a half. All I could think, for the first 2 years, was getting to 8th grade and being able to play one of the shiny, streamlined, one-piece horns that the older students got to play on.

It’s good to have a goal.

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