Tag Archives: Clarinet

Here and Now it’s a Different Storyline

Music really is my lifeblood. I don’t think that should be a surprise to anyone reading. After all, this is a fan blog dedicated to a music group! My love of music comes from not only listening, but also practicing and performing.

I started learning to play the clarinet when I was eight. The earliest memory I have of this period would be my clarinet case sitting on my lap as I fumbled to keep my music books from falling on the floor in the front seat of my dad’s old Ford truck on the way to lessons. I had only been playing for a short while at the time of this memory, and honestly – I wasn’t very good. I was beginning to get very frustrated, and practicing definitely wasn’t fun. My dad came up with the idea to put me in lessons, and for my parents—paying for those lessons was a luxury I didn’t take lightly.

We took the drive to Gard’s Music from our house, and I told my dad that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep playing. The deal we’d made was that I had to play for six months before I could decide to quit. My parents has rented my clarinet from Mr. Gard, and my dad was very firm: if he was going to pay for the rental, I had to agree to stick it out for at least the six months. He wasn’t giving in, to my dismay. At the time, saying six months to me was not really any different than suggesting six years.

That day in my dad’s truck though, he also shared something with me that I never forgot. I got into the truck after my lesson, still discouraged and thinking more and more about giving up the clarinet to play with in the girls’ city softball league that spring.

My dad put the key into the ignition, the Ford roaring to life as I rolled down the window to get some air. He then turned to me. “Mike told me something I think you should know.” I waited to hear the inevitable news that I was never going to master the major C scale, much less anything else.

“He said that you have great potential.” I can remember asking him what “potential” meant, assuming it must have something to do with my lack of talent. My dad smiled and explained that it meant if I really practiced hard, I could one day be a great player.

I don’t really know what Mike heard or saw in me. I thought I was terrible. Learning the notes was tough, reading music was even tougher, and putting it all together felt unsurmountable. I got into the truck after my lesson, still discouraged and thinking more and more about giving up the clarinet to stick with the girls’ city softball league that spring.

Those words were just the encouragement I needed to keep going. I played the clarinet for the next ten years, thinking I’d even major in music in college. For a lot of reasons that make very little sense now that I’m 48, I changed my major that first year at Cal State Fullerton. While I could have easily played professionally, I scared myself into believing I wasn’t good enough. I quit. A decision I think about to this day. I don’t regret it, exactly – I have three children and a husband I adore – but I dearly miss playing.

When I turned 40, my husband bought me a new clarinet. It is a gorgeous, wooden and silver, professional-series, Buffet Crampon R-13. Every now and then I get it out and play, finding it ever-so-slightly harder to hit the upper register notes than I did whenever I played last. The one thing I always longed to do, was play with a group again, like a community band. Either there wasn’t one where we lived, they only accepted professional musicians with proper credentials, or I had children to raise with very little time. It was the kind of a dream I had to just put away, and be satisfied with the few stolen moments I’d have to play some of the sheet music I have at home.

We moved to Atascadero in December, and it never occurred to me that maybe now would be a good time to find a community band. So, when I stumbled upon an article in our local town magazine about our community band, I lit up like a Christmas tree. Not only is there a band, but they’re LOOKING for woodwind players.

I love writing. I adore Duran Duran. While sure, I blog, I’m not a great writer. Yes, I’m a fan and love to study it. Even so, I can’t throw myself into fandom with abandon and travel around the world. This band has been with me nearly single step of the way throughout my life, even if they don’t know it. They fed the part of my soul that continued longing for music even after I stopped playing. Yet, I’ve always felt like something I couldn’t quite put my finger on was missing. My career has consisted of raising my children, and I’m thankful I was able to stay at home and put my full self into their care. But there’s an emptiness I’ve never quite been able to completely fill. I’m still unsatisfied on a deeply personal level.

I have a hard time talking myself into the idea that I could play with a band again.I’m fine with the idea of playing with a group – but those first few seconds of walking in and meeting new people, clarinet in hand, FREAK ME OUT. Performing or rehearsing with real bands haven’t played a part in my life for more years than I care to count. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m any good. (probably not right now!) I have a real fear of failure. This time though, I’m forcing myself to see it through. I’m not a young pup now, and life is short. I need to do this for myself.

I unpacked my clarinet yesterday. It was still in perfect condition, waiting for me. There is something so uniquely comforting to me when I feel the coolness of the chromed keys, the smell of the cork grease, or even the way the wood of the reed feels in my fingers as I’m adjusting it on the mouthpiece. Weirdly, I feel whole in the same way I do when I’m standing in front of Duran Duran at a show. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

-R