Saturday, September 19, 2009

Valve oil and pimples

Today has been a little weird, a musical alpha and omega, if you will. One of my kids started playing the viola and the other decided to quit the drums. I know it's been a recurring theme for me to observe my daughters' experiences and then climb into the Way-Back Machine to revisit my own childhood, and I suppose this post is no exception. 
Band/orchestra for the school-aged kid is more than a class; it's a culture. At first, you and your classmates really struggle just to play the instruments at all. I played the trumpet beginning in fifth grade, and those first few weeks were hellish. All the clarinets, flutes, trombones, trumpets and drums combined to form the musical equivalent of all the finger paint colors mixed into a sickening brown—it was anarchy.
But pretty soon, everyone learns the basic notes and scales, and things begin to gel just a little, Eventually, you can all play a song together. Sure, it might be Hot Crossed Buns, but hey, it's a song. That's when the cultural bond of playing music takes hold. And if I ever run into Mr. Sower, my fifth grade band director, I will tell him, "You had me at Hot Crossed Buns." I hope he takes that the right way.
To me, band was the great equalizer. You could be the scrawniest kid, or the fattest kid, or you could have a face like lasagna, but if you could play, you had the respect of the other kids in the room. Those who weren't in band didn't necessarily hold us in high regard, but for an hour every day at least, we were golden among each other.
I participated in lots of sports. However, none fostered the esprit de corps that music did. 
It makes me sad that my oldest daughter has chosen to end her musical pursuits. The grim reality for kids today is that, unlike how it was for us middle-aged folk, they must fully immerse themselves in whatever activity they choose, and their schedules shift into overdrive once high school begins. 
Every time I pull that old, silver trumpet out, the familiar aromas of valve oil and silver flood my senses. I really miss those days. I want to tell Zoe that she will, too, but the last thing she deserves now is to be flogged with the parental guilty stick.
And with Lauryn starting orchestra, I'm lucky to have yet another opportunity to witness the process all over again.

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