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.