Followers of this blog know I arrived at midlife with a vow to live out loud. This was a big step for me. Up til then, unless I knew you very well, I was generally a mouse, followed the rules, avoided new experiences and tried to be as low maintenance as possible.
That changed in the last few years. Getting laid off from the job I loved in 1999 forced me to reinvent myself.
I developed a new career path; joined the Rye Town Community Band even though I hadn’t touched my clarinet in years; became a Jazzercise instructor; undertook the search of a lifetime — and found who I was looking for!
Tonight I lived out loud — but I did it off-key.
I only half-joke that the high school kids keep us honest in the band. They play every day, after all, and their minds and fingers are much more facile that those of us older folks. But tonight, most of the kids had other activities. We were a small group. And there was no one to play first clarinet.
Once up a time — oh 30+ years ago — I did. I worked hard to get to that chair and coveted every minute it was mine.
These days? Not so much. All that stuff about practicing you hear when you were younger? It’s true.
Anyway, Ken, one of our group’s organizers — and an amazing musician and music teacher in his own right — offered up the first clarinet music binder to me. Steve and Sonny, the bearded retirees who flank me, were more than a little encouraging (if they could have moved their folding chairs back two giant steps, leaving me sitting alone, they would have).
Remembering all the many times I’ve encouraged Catherine to “just try,” I took a deep breath, repositioned myself and dug in, heart pounding, palms sweaty, and thinking:
Twice a week, I stand on stage in Spandex, teaching Jazzercise, for heaven’s sake. I can do this.
I kept reminding myself of what I tell customers who take my Jazzercise class: “Everyone else is worried about how THEY look. No one is watching you. Dance like no one is watching.”
And so I endeavored to play like no one was listening.
I suspect my immediate neighbors wished they didn’t have to.
Oh, I held my own with the whole notes, half notes, even the eighth notes. The appearance of some runs of 16th notes, a bunch of flats, a couple of sharps or a crazy syncopated rhythm, however, marked my ruin. My fingers wouldn’t move right and I had trouble remembering the fingerings for some notes above the staff.
At times I simply congratulated myself for knowing where we were in a piece, and then I jumped in — all home-free-all! — the next time a half-note appeared.
The music got increasingly difficult and I started to feel as though I was in one of those dreams where I went to class and didn’t know there was going to be a test — or even what class it was! (I figured if it got real bad, I would just blame the progressive lenses.)
Back home, I congratulated myself for surviving the experience.
There’s practice again next week.
I’m pretty sure they’ll let me keep my regular seat.
Terri, loved this article! Thanks for joining RTCB – we are small but mighty, and it’s truly a pleasure to work with such a great (and fun) group of musicians. I always leave our rehearsals feeling upbeat (no pun intended!). Thanks for stepping up to the 1st part when we needed you! Carolee
Thanks Carolee! I feel likewise about our practices, and look forward to Wednesday!
Terri, I know it’s been a long time since we spent any time together, but I don’t remember you as a mouse at all. And, I never felt any skill at playing 1st chair (I think I looked at the back of your head, in fact). What you describe, and describe so well, is how I felt nearly every time–glad just to know where we were in the music– especially playing as a student in the community band!
Kudos to you!
Yup, in the end it’s about the music — which is quite forgiving as long as you’re not in front of an All County judge! 😉
Terri – I’m sure you are a fantastic musician. As you were back in high school. I give you all credit in the world. I haven’t played since high school….as you know from our reunion…which will be 4 years ago already!!! Don’t even have my trombone anymore. Got a question on the picture. Did you have that taken on your own or through the band? Reason I ask…..last summer when I was ay PCHS for our 30th. I saw outside of the band room there were formal pics. of all the kids…like your photo. So I was like wow…they do that now. Enjoyed reading as always
Aw Mike; you’re very kind, but sadly the years have not been nice to my memory or my fine motor skills. The picture was a band portrait from my freshman year. Don’t have others and not sure why they were organized that year!
Yeah, I’m jealous of the portrait, too! I don’t remember having that option. Every picture of me in the band uniform is with sweaty hair tied back in a pony tail. Glad for you that someone had the foresight to preserve a memory in a photo like that.
Did you see the movie “The Quartet” yet? It’s all about getting out there and just doing it, whether we have the talent we once had or not! It’s a sweet movie, and your post echoes its theme. Loved this article — I can relate!
I haven’t, but it’s on my list. On your recommendation, I’ll have to actually get myself to the movies now! Thanks for stopping by…