Dear Joseph and Lucia,
I heard another NPR story today that inspired me to share with you my musical journey when I was your ages. When I was in 5th grade, we lived in Peculiar, Missouri. (Giggle if you like) Papa Gene stumbled across an antique clarinet at a garage sale and bought it for $10. $50’s later in repairs, I had my first horn. I took to it quickly and excelled. The next year, we moved to Tulsa where they didn’t start band until 6th grade, so I was a year ahead. It was easy to maintain 1st chair, but I found myself bored since I was playing the same things two years in a row. I asked If I could play the oboe, but they only had one and it was already being played.
The next year we moved again. This time to SW Houston. Momma Mickey went to the Junior High to register me and sign me up for band. They didn’t have any oboes available, but they did have a bassoon. So, she came home a few days before school with the one they checked out to me with explicit instructions that I wasn’t to attempt to assemble it until properly instructed. Yeah… right.
I spent the next two years practicing several hours a day. I loved the instrument even though it wasn’t my first choice. It’s range was amazing. It started as low as a tuba and could reach as high as a flute. I made second chair in the top band my freshman year in high school. In a band of over 200 kids, I was only 1 of 8 freshmen. It was an extreme honor.
I spent a summer with my brother’s saxophone after he quit band and marched with that. I learned jazz and blues styles from other students. After yet another move, the small school of Caldwell had way too many saxophones and only one tuba. So I branched out into brass. It was a blast. My band director, Bill Tune, recognized what I could do and encouraged me. I even eventually got to play the oboe for a few songs at his request.
I loved music, but came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be my career. I had a fatal flaw of not being able to tongue notes fast enough. Besides accomplishing many more instruments, I was a master of none. That became clear to me when I heard musicians that seemed to sing through their instruments. I just knew the mechanics.
I eventually resigned from the art and went into the other field I was adept at… engineering/math/programming. I’ve only looked back once in all the years. I auditioned for the local community college and made principal bassoonist. As a working professional, I didn’t have time for the extensive rehearsal and performance time, so I resigned. But, I know I still have it in me. I sing the body electric inside (quote from “Fame”). That will never leave.
Explore your passions. Find your place and claim it as your own. I’ll be here waiting to see you excel.