Tag Archives: musicians

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

Something Cooking When You Play Guitar

I don’t know how other bloggers handle readers or their comments, but Amanda and I like to try to stay engaged with people.  So, we do tend to read the things being said on Facebook and Twitter, as well as comments sent directly to our blog.

One of the very best comments I’ve read…probably ever…was something posted in response to a blog I wrote a couple of days back regarding the show at Agua Caliente. I tried to put my feelings about that night into words, and even though I’m still not sure I conveyed it all properly, many readers seem to not only grasp what I was saying, they chimed in with their own feelings.

 “I always tell people, ‘I am the real me when I am at a Duran concert’ .” – Nicky Pryer, Facebook

A simple, thought-provoking statement, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Nicky’s statement sums up exactly how I feel. I’m not just a fan. I’m a mom, I home school, and I’m a wife among many other things…but I’m also a musician. I’ve played clarinet since I was 8. I’ve actually PLAYED at the Hollywood Bowl before. (Yes, on that same big stage.) I practiced for hours upon hours each day and it was my entire life outside of school. My life goals were two-fold: 1. Become principle clarinetist for the LA Phil. 2. Become an orchestra conductor.  I was very, very, serious about my craft, and auditioned for the now defunct junior philharmonic when I was 11. I made it the first time, and I remember the conductor telling me how unusual it was, but that I was very, very, good.  The pressure was enormous for me and I constantly felt like I needed to measure up to expectations. When I got to high school, I decided to quit the orchestra and play in the school marching band instead, and my entire life changed accordingly. I ended up doing pretty much the exact opposite of what I thought I’d be doing now: I stay at home, I’m married…and I have kids. Three (and a husband) more than I’d ever thought about when I was 12 or 13, actually. I didn’t even play the clarinet in college. Now, my playing is only done in private, and really if I’m going to be honest, those short moments (who can really practice with kids around?!?) are the times when I feel the most like myself.  It is the one thing I do that doesn’t get shared, and is completely and utterly for me. I love that. For my fortieth birthday, my family bought me a new clarinet. It wasn’t just your average student version – it was a professional, very expensive model. I cried when I opened it because I will likely never play on a professional stage again, but I treasure that darn thing to pieces. I’d sell my Duran Duran collection before I’d ever sell that clarinet – just to show its importance to me. Music courses through my veins and continues to be my lifeblood…and when I go to see shows, particular Duran Duran, I feel flickers of that coming through.

I could write this particular post from the angle that I’m normally just your basic mom, or that I revert back to my inner-teen when the band comes on stage…and for the most part, that would be appropriate and pretty real-life. But for me, those descriptions would still leave something untouched. Yes, of course I scream for the band. Sure, I clap, dance, and even bat my eyelashes with abandon, but there’s more going on than just fan-girl adoring (and I say this knowing it is true for many, if not most of you out there). When I stand in front of the band and they are playing, I am able to block out everything else and just hear the notes and words, and I recognize myself again. I think many of us are that way, and this is just MY version of that story.

Recently, I tried to describe my feelings to someone by saying that when a song is played well, even though I know that I am one of thousands in the room, it feels as though I’m the only person there and that it’s being played just for me. I have no doubt that the person I said that to thought it was “just” an adoring fan girl moment for sure, but that isn’t what I meant at all. I won’t lie, it kind of makes me gag a little that it was taken that way (I should’ve known better), and also irks me that I didn’t explain it better so they’d get it and take my comment seriously. That person doesn’t know me well enough to understand that I said that as a musician – not as a fan, and yes, that difference DOES matter to me in this particular situation. I meant that those notes become a part of me. I can SEE the music as they’re playing it. I think about the key signatures, the dynamics…the chords… and it all transports me away from the person I am now, away from being a fan, back to JUST the music…which is really at the very heart of who I am.

Please don’t read this post thinking that I’m trying to say that I experience the shows more seriously, or differently than others. Anyone who has stood next to me at shows knows, I go as crazy as anyone else! (Trust me – I adore the band like anyone else as I stand staring at Dom’s striped socks inches from me, or I watch Nick grin down at me as he starts in with the chords to Hungry Like the Wolf. Or maybe when I see Roger twirl his drum stick in Wild Boys, or when John waits for us to shout “Switch it Off in Planet Earth…or when I watch Simon point to John as he sings the line “big sky” in Sunrise. I am a fan, and live for those moments!) I can only say that when I start feeling like the “Real” Rhonda, someone who I kind of think I left behind in high school or maybe even college, I’m only thinking about the music. How it looks. How it feels. How it makes me feel. Even when Simon Willescroft plays the sax in Rio, I’m standing there paying rapt attention to the keys and how he sounds, considering why it might be that some nights it sounds better than others. Or I think about why I prefer the sound a straight soprano sax makes compared to the hooked neck one he has used in Tiger Tiger. (Sorry Simon!) Then I remember that I gave up playing professionally years before, and sometimes, that makes me sad.

Seeing Duran Duran isn’t entirely about leaving my responsibilities behind or reverting back to that little girl who hung their posters in her bedroom. No, sometimes it’s about remembering how much I love music. How much I love playing. Sometimes it’s about feeling inspired to practice, or using some of the music theory I’ve learned to write a review…or even just hearing the notes or bass line a little differently than I heard it on my stereo at home. Seeing John smile at the audience makes me smile and glow in turn, but those precious few minutes when I am past all of that, and my head is completely and totally submerged in the music – that time is golden above all else, and it is when I feel the most like me.

-R