Friday, January 22, 2010

Yer Darn Tootin'

I played the flute from fourth grade through senior year of high school. I had adored playing the recorder in 3rd grade and was chomping at the bit to take up a “real” instrument the following year. I wanted to play the clarinet because it seemed like that was the instrument all the cool kids were going to play. My mom wasn’t so sure. She said she loved the sound of the flute and encouraged me in that direction. I think she was probably terrified of the sounds I would make learning the clarinet—that whole dying goose thing, you know. Whatever the reason for her advice, I took it and the flute became my instrument of choice.

When I brought my school-owned instrument home that first day, I couldn’t get a sound out of it. I was crushed. I had an absolute melt-down, yelling that I would never be able to play the flute and I should just give up now! (Does anyone remember my blog about when my daughter started the flute? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m so sorry about that Mom & Dad). As it turned out, the flute was actually broken and I was given a different instrument and then things were just fine.

Flute came easily for me. I don’t recall practicing much at home, though I must have at some point. By the end of the fourth grade, I was playing on a sixth grade level and was given a perfect score at the solo festival that year (for a fourth-grade-level piece.) I was no prodigy, mind you. I just picked things up quickly. At some point in high school, the requirements of playing the instrument well caught up with my natural ability and I believe, for all intents and purposes that I was pretty mediocre in the end. I did take private lessons on Saturday mornings for a while, which were lots of fun until I decided I really didn’t want to spend the time practicing. Then Saturday mornings were awful. I always walked up Mr. Cohen’s walk with a sense of dread, certain that he would know I wasn’t practicing. Which he always did. Eventually, I asked my parents if I could stop the lessons. I felt like I was wasting their money.

When I graduated from high school, I made the decision not to continue playing flute. Part of it was that I was going to a college with one of the premier music programs in the country and I was completely intimidated and unwilling to do the work I knew it would take to keep up there. I gave my flute to a junior high kid who couldn’t afford his own and felt like the gesture validated the decision to quit. I remember my mom, again, not being so sure. She said there might come a time when I would regret quitting.

That time came in 1998 or so, when I was actively involved in a church with a ridiculous number of gifted musicians in its membership. It wasn’t that I wanted to do what they did. It was that I remembered how fun it was to play music, to create sound, to be part of a musical team. Choir was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, and I would never choose one over the other, but when people would play flute in church I would feel my fingers wanting to follow along with the notes, and I was sad I didn’t have my own instrument anymore.

I got over it. Like you do.

So when Eiledon decided she wanted to play either the violin, the clarinet or the flute (in that order), I said not one word. I didn’t even tell her that I had once played the flute. The school had an evening event where each kid got to try out their top three instruments and I sat silently by while my daughter clumsily drew a bow across the neck of a three-quarter-sized violin. She didn’t appear to be all that excited about it. Then, in another room, she tried the get a sound out of the clarinet. Nothin’. Not even the dying goose. She was very disappointed. The band instructor smiled kindly and handed her a flute mouthpiece. “Now look at the wall over there. I’ll hold the mouthpiece. Don’t look down—look straight ahead, make a small hole with your lips and blow.” Out came a high and lovely note. She was hooked. Instantly.

After she had made her decision, and was certain of it, I told her that I had also played the flute, but hadn’t wanted to influence her in that direction. But now that she’d chosen it, I was really excited for her.

A few weeks ago, I held her flute and played it. Not well. But I played it. And I remembered how much I loved it. As a result, I’ve been able to work with her in her practicing, to play pieces for her so she can hear what they’re supposed to sound like before she starts plugging away measure by measure. Who knows, maybe I’ll take this as a “refresher course” and get my own flute and we can play duets some day. Meanwhile, I just want to say “thanks” to my mom for steering me away from the dying goose. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment