Thursday, December 16, 2010

Play On, Said Shakespeare

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who play a musical instrument and those who wish they did. I have always wanted to be one of those people who could sit down at the piano and play any song by ear, so people could sing along to their favorite tunes. I took piano lessons for years, but don't practice now and am not very good. I keep saying I'll take it up again, but I already have too many (way too many) projects.

I also played clarinet during middle school. I was always second chair. First chair was held by a boy named Mike, who I believe went on to study at Juilliard. I retained second chair status not because of my clarinet skills, but because I was a good sight reader (thanks to those piano lessons). I never wanted to play clarinet. I wanted to play oboe, but our conductor said I didn't have the right embrasure and that we already had an oboe player. Never mind that we had 13 clarinet players.

As any parent of neophyte musicians knows, those early years can be painful. Squeaks and squawks, missed beats, wrong notes and rhythmic challenges are all part of the territory. Among our children, we have suffered through enjoyed two trumpet players, two violinists, a saxophonist, two pianists and a drummer. This does not count their Rock Band sessions.

We beg them to practice. We rent instruments and pay for lessons. We attend school events euphemistically called "concerts". We provide "black bottoms, white tops and black dress shoes" for said concerts. We smile and clap and pretend to recognize the songs they are playing. We endure 73,248 performances of "Hot Cross Buns". We buy band and orchestra fund-raising crap products. We schlep them to rehearsals at 7:15 in the morning twice a week. We secretly wonder why.

But then one day, usually sometime during middle school, the squeaks and squawks turn into sounds that vaguely resemble … music. At first, you're not quite sure you actually heard what you think you heard. But, then, sure enough, you identify a melody. Your ears stop bleeding. You recognize that though your child may not be a prodigy, there is a certain level of proficiency that has been attained. You pat yourself on the back for providing this cultural immersion, knowing that they will carry their love of music with them for the rest of their lives.

It's usually about this time that they decide to quit.

Last week, we attended the winter concert of our two youngest children. It was the school's "Winter Concert", as our public school no longer gives holiday concerts. The short video (I promise, it's just just 33 seconds) showcases the one holiday medley they played and features our curly blonde mop-topped saxophonist (in about the middle of your screen) and our shaggy brunette trumpet player behind him to the left.

If you still think this does not sound like music, then you either never took up an instrument yourself or your children have not yet started. If you thoroughly enjoyed it, then your children are still at the squeaky, squawky stage. I feel your pain. Either way, I hope it brought a smile. Donations may be sent to the Bearman Musical Scholarship Fund. Any level of contribution welcome. Comments are also welcome here.

Happy, happy, merry, merry to one and all.


Beverly Patt said...

And I had to laugh at the line about them quitting. We'd just finished paying off her rent-to-own clarinet weeks before she decided to quit.
Anyone interested in a (gently) used clarinet for their budding Beethoven???
Happy Holidays to you.

Anonymous said...

I am a genius, they have both been doing guitar lessons. No concerts and great skill for dorm life in college!!! Guess I should not say zero concerts, Hope was in a rock band and did a few but I was not allowed to attend :).

Susan Bearman said...

Bev, I'll keep my ears open about the clarinet. Wish we had come across a used trumpet or sax. Happy Holidays back to you.

Marcy, we alway knew you were a genius. A concert that you're not allowed to attend — brilliant!

Anonymous said...

I love it. Mine are playing piano and guitar books with numbers and colored dots. You gotta start somewhere.

You always crack me up, Susan!

Susan Bearman said...

Thanks, EVF. Glad to amuse. We'll see how funny you think it is a few years down the line.

Florist said...

i think i'm in kind of people "wish i did" LoL. happy new year everyone.

Linda Gartz said...

Just caught this - almost a month later. I took piano lessons for about 5 years. I can read music and play the treble clef of the simplest piano songs. If I practice I can learn some Christmas carols ahead. I took up piano again for two years when my oldest was little (over 20 years ago. I practiced diligently 45 minutes a day -- and was mediocre at best. Piano teacher said, "To be good you must practice at least 3 hours a day! And then you have to have talent." Ok. I get it. Thing is -- lots of music in my family background -- so I didn't get the talent. We can't all be good at everything. Wish I were better -- and had three- five hours a day to practice! It's just good your kids are involved with music -- whatever they do with it. I can still read music.

Robert Sloan said...

Awesome! Of course this leaves out "the people who never wanted to and got forced to endure endless lessons and practice as children." But it's still great.

Me, I throw art supplies at my grandkids and endure their attempts at singing because it's obvious they're enjoying themselves as much as I did with the crayons. Even though I'm very much one of that Third Kind, I'm not going to ruin something that they enjoy that much.


Susan Bearman said...

Robert — Thanks for your comment and you're right, I did forget that third kind. My brother and I took piano lessons as kids and would practice after school. My mom got home about a half hour after we did. On one day, I would pay my brother a quarter to say I practiced. The next, he would pay me a quarter to tell my mom that he had practiced. I think we passed that same quarter back and forth for years and, as a consequence, only practiced the piano every other day.