One of my first memories of having a strong sense of pride in myself was the last two years of junior high school in Advanced Band Class. I first played the clarinet in elementary school with my teacher Mr. Lichty.
Gorby’s, the local music store, and yes my cousins, came to elementary schools every year and played demos of all the musical instruments common for young children for the following year in a band. When Mr. Gorby played the clarinet, I knew that was what I would play. He sounded it sweeter than Benny Goodman. I sat there in class trying to cover up my goosebumps and the tears welling in my eyes. Any small doubt I had about picking the clarinet evaporated.
I studied hard for the beginning years but wasn’t on par with people in my same grade. I focused on the math of music. I wanted everything I did to be precise. Perfect. It helped. The hours of study a week helped. No matter how hard I tried, I never felt I performed as well as my classmates. It began to change in 8th grade. I slowly stopped caring as much about the science of music and let myself start to care about the art again.
Mrs. Kennedy announced it right then and there to the class. She had me stand and told me, and all the band members that my elementary school teacher, Mr. Lichty, had warned her I would never learn to play the clarinet, that I would never be good. She had never seen a student improve as much as I did, and she had never had a student exceed her expectations as much as I had. I was embarrassed but so proud of what I had accomplished.
My Clarinet Sang
I was first string clarinet year. The auditions came for First Chair and I made it! First Chair First String Clarinet. Soon, I was to teach the new clarinetists how to play and march in Bandcamp, and yes this one time in Bandcamp stories do happen. That year I learned every type of clarinet. I continued teaching the new students. I remained First Chair. I made it to All-County.
The secret. I stopped caring. I played only for me. I played to make music, not math. Music is supposed to move people that should include the person making it and it had stopped doing that for me years ago. I wanted to enjoy music again, to let the instrument to come to life in my hands and direct my fingers as if it conducted my fingers in a dance. Every time I played a song it moved me. I stopped playing music and using the instrument as a tool and became the tool for the music. I loved playing. I did what I wanted the way I wanted. When I committed a part of myself to my music in such an intimate manner that is when I learned to play.