Tuesday, June 17, 2008
It all began towards the end of grade four, when the band teacher came into our class to find out who would like to join the band the next year. I was definitely in! I had no idea what I wanted to play, so I picked the clarinet, the same instrument my dad played when HE was in school.
I got my clarinet - a good ol' plastic rent-to-own Yamaha - and my friend Cathryn and I experimented and explored and taught ourselves how to play all kinds of new tunes. I remember being really proud that we figured out part of the Muppets theme song, and a variety of other tunes.
Band began, and I was hooked. I practiced and practiced, loving the cool songs our band teacher had us play. I mean, Captain Video? Hello! Who DOESN'T want to play an outer space overture with all kinds of video/space sound effects played on a cassette tape behind the music? Oh sweet YouTube, if only you had a clip of that awesome, awesome song!
Regular ol' school band wasn't enough for me, and in grade six or seven, I also joined the North Vancouver Youth Band, a community concert and marching band. Band geek-dom, here I come!
In high school I took up the alto sax for jazz band (and had a brief stint on the trombone), and by grade 10, I was in the junior concert band, the junior jazz band, the senior concert band, the senior jazz band, AND the North Vancouver Youth Band. I did fund raisers for band trips, went on tour most springs/summers, went to band camps, marched in countless parades, and went early one Monday a month for sectionals (an intensive lesson with just the instruments in your section - my sectional leader was Gene Ramsbottom, a fan-TASTIC clarinet player and man with pretty much the awesomest name ever. Watch, he's gonna google himself and find this this post now. Mr. Ramsbottom, you were a FABULOUS teacher. I learned SO much from you!).
When high school ended, I tried to keep up with the NVYB and joined the Capilano College concert band, but with commuting an hour and a half each way to university, and piles and piles of homework, that didn't last past first year. My clarinet began collecting dust in my closet, though I would take it out periodically and play through some of the old music I still had kicking around.
I miss being in band - that sense of being a part of something that is greater than you, that expressiveness, that sense of accomplishment when a piece is finally performance-ready. One day, I keep telling myself, I'll go back to it. Join a community band. Play again. It's going to take a lot of practicing on my own to get back to the point where I'd be anywhere NEAR ready to do that again...
Music, however, hasn't disappeared from my life completely. When I first started teaching, I started as a music teacher. Not really qualified except that I read music, I went to workshop after workshop, seminar after seminar, and learned as I went. It was challenging, but still so fun, as I got to participate in music again, and, more importantly, got to try to make kids love making music, too!
One of my favourite things about teaching music was that final moment, when all the boring, repetitive xylophone parts that we'd been practicing for WEEKS finally were ready to put together. The kids would be at the breaking point, complaining about "Why do we have to do this AGAIN???" and "I'm booooored!" but then! Then we'd put it all together, and the harmonies, the way each part fit together - that big picture - finally became apparent. I could see the looks of amazement on their faces as suddenly that boring old "doot-rest-doot-rest-doot-doot-doot" pattern came alive around them. They'd be concentrating their little heads off, then at the end, looked around in wonder as I got to exclaim, "Did you hear that? You did that! You made that! That was wonderful! That! was music!!!" They would look SO proud of themselves, and I knew that all those weeks of boring (for them), frustrating (for me) music classes paid off!
I still try to keep making music a little bit. Through teaching music, I discovered African drumming, and though I haven't really done a lot of it, I jump at any chance I can get to take a workshop! I bought myself a djembe at a county fair in Washington a few years ago, and I scooped the "family guitar" for my music ed class at university, and have had it ever since. I've been (very slowly and sporadically) teaching myself guitar, and though I'm not very good and I rarely play in front of anyone, it's something I enjoy as a stress reliever.
I've collected a variety of other random instruments over the years, too. I have my sister's flute sitting in my closet alongside my clarinet, for example. Every now and then I'll take it out and fiddle with it. I've figured out a major scale and a few simple tunes, but that's about it. And that fun little froggie in the photo? He's a guiro (wee'-ro) my friend gave to me after a trip to Thailand. It's good for some fun percussion every now and then! The gourd I bought at the same time as the djembe, cause I thought it was cool. Hey! An African instrument! I must have it! In retrospect, the plastic pony beads don't exactly do much for authenticity, and it's pretty ear-piercingly loud when you shake it, so needless to say, it hasn't gotten a lot of use. Oh well! The spoons are from when I did my language program in Chicoutimi, Quebec back in 2001. I bought them in Quebec City as a souvenir. I played them every night at campfire at Kawkawa later that summer, and by the end of the summer, had worn a hole right though my jeans because of it! I can play a mean spoon, let me tell you! Finger rolls are my forte! hehehe!
I guess once a band geek, always a band geek, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It's something that I enjoy, and even when I don't do it well or often, it still is such a great outlet for me to be creative, to lose myself, to hone a skill, to relax. I hope it continues to be part of my life for a very long time to come!