Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Band Beginnings

Today is the Beginnings Blogfest hosted by L.G. Keltner, celebrating the one year anniversary of her blog. Participants (click on the picture to the left for a complete list) are asked to write about a beginning that is important to them. The rest is up to us.

I was going to write about my beginnings as a writer but I already did that here.  I thought I could post the poem I wrote in elementary school that was published in the local paper (technically the first thing I ever published. And also the only thing. But whatever) but as I was looking through the photo album in which the news clipping lives, I came across a photo of my high school band.  It was a photo op with our senator at the time, George Mitchell, during our trip to Washington D.C.. We're sitting on the Capitol steps in our god-awful uniforms (thankfully sans hats), all of us smiling (well, most of us smiling), all young and full of potential.

Had I the ability to share this photo with you, I would. But as I am currently without scanner technology, I cannot. And my haircut has nothing to do with it. I actually look kind of cute in the picture. Despite the band uniform.

But anyway, this picture has inspired me to tell you the story of how I came to join the high school band.

The opportunity to learn musical instruments through the school system started in the fifth grade. It was an optional thing. If one was interested, they could rent (to own) an instrument and join either the band or the orchestra. Percussion, the saxophone and the violin were the most popular and while I had a little spark of interest, I ultimately joined neither. I'm not sure it ever occurred to any of my siblings or me that we could really do such a thing. So we didn't.

My best friends did. One of them, a girl named MJ, played the flute. Another girl, Heidi, played the trombone. Jamie played percussion.

I played softball. Badly.

Then came the seventh grade. I walked into the junior high that first day, went to my homeroom and received my schedule. Imagine my surprise when the first class I was scheduled to attend was band.

"But I don't play an instrument," I told my homeroom teacher. I think his name was Mr. Leighton.

"I don't know what to tell you," Mr. Leighton said. "You'll have to talk to the guidance office."

So I talked to the guidance office. Apparently, they had gotten me confused with MJ.  It happened a lot during our high school years because we shared the same last name and a very similar first name. It came in handy later on in our high school careers when one of us wanted to skip a class. (not that we ever did that...) So the guidance office agreed to take me out of band. However, the guidance office told me I would have to attend band rehearsals until they figured out what to do with my schedule.

So I went to band and I explained to the teacher, Mrs. MacIntyre, that my enrollment was a mistake. That I didn't play an instrument. Any instrument. Nor could I read music. I was currently the most useless member of the entire band.  So Mrs. MacIntyre sent me to the back of the room where I spent a week sitting on the heater and listening to the band learn whatever songs they were learning.

By the end of the week, the guidance office had finally figured out what to do with me but there was one small hitch: I'd been bitten by the music bug and I wanted to learn an instrument and be a part of the band for real.

I ended up learning the clarinet because my aunt had one from her student days that I could use. Mrs. MacIntyre spent so much of her spare time teaching me. I didn't even know how to read music. I didn't know anything and I was two years behind the rest of her students. But she got me there and by the time I graduated from high school, I was first chair clarinet. I also learned to play the flute, oboe, trombone, trumpet and piano. I learned to conduct (poorly) and even composed my own music. I even played in college for a while until the schedule conflicted with my ability to earn a degree.

But my life was completely changed that seventh grade year. And all because of a clerical error and the dedication of one teacher.

§§§

Thanks for L.G. Keltner for creating and hosting a very cool blogfest. Be sure to check out her blog and the tales of the other participants!

57 comments:

  1. I played clarinet in band too. It's funny how those little mix-ups in life can ultimately work out.

    Thanks for joining my blogfest!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's hear it for the clarinet!

      And it's a great blogfest. I'm so glad I found out about it.

      Delete
  2. That's a pretty awesome story. I started playing music when I was in elementary school, but, when it got to the part where we had to learn to play music, I didn't want to do that, so I quit. I was 10, and I didn't have anyone to tell me to do it anyway, because my parents never did that kind of thing. If I wanted to quit, I got to quit. I have regretted that for decades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I regret that I gave it up in college. I have a closet full of instruments and I've completely forgotten how to play a couple of them. Not the clarinet though.

      Delete
  3. That is an awesome beginning! I love that it was completely by chance that you caught the bug and ended up with several instruments under your belt.

    Jamie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, completely by chance. Wonderfully insane that I went from "I don't play an instrument" to "which instrument can I learn next?"

      Delete
  4. Musician by accident! I like that. I salute you, fellow band geek!

    ReplyDelete
  5. That's a great story, MJ! And as someone who failed miserably at the clarinet (and piano), I bow to your abilities. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Madeline! I pretty much failed at the trombone. A couple of performances and I ran back to the woodwinds section.

      Delete
  6. Cool story! I used to play the clarinet in grade school. (Never made first chair.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny how many kids start off on the clarinet.

      Delete
  7. That's a wonderful story. I must say I truly regret not taking an instrument while I was at school.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I often wish I had started in the fifth grade like everyone else. My younger siblings started early though. My accidental band membership changed things for all of us. I should've put that in the story.

      Delete
  8. I love mistakes like that...you know, the ones that turn out to be fateful moments. Very cool.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Here from the Beginnings Blogfest. I hope you have a lovely day :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. That is a cool story!!! Thanks for sharing! I love listening to bands, get it from my dad I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You probably would have enjoyed the seventh grade band so much. The high school band, however, was pretty good. Except when we were a marching band.

      Delete
  11. What a fun story! Amazing what can happen from a simple mistake. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Some mistakes have lead me to disaster, but a nice few have lead me to where I am today and I would not change a thing!

    Great story.

    --
    Tim Brannan
    The Other Side
    The Freedom of Nonbelief

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I probably wouldn't change anything either. I'm pretty happy with where I've ended up.

      Delete
  13. Fantastic story--so glad you got the music bug...My mother (God bless her) ensured I learned to read music at the same time I learned to read words. I play the oboe--another thing my mother influenced :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really loved the oboe. I wish I'd been better at it.

      Delete
  14. My elementary school didn't have a music program, so 7th grade band was beginning band. I started on the flute but ultimately stayed with the oboe. I played through college, too, but I haven't picked up my oboe since. I kind of miss it, but if I wanted to do it again, I'd have to make some reeds, and that keeps me from it.

    Fun story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would keep me from doing it too. I gave up the oboe after high school because I didn't own one. I used the school's. I'm sure I still have reeds somewhere though.

      Delete
  15. I'm a former clarinet gal myself. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow, so many instruments you play. I always wanted to learn piano and guitar. But it is rather difficult to find dragon size instruments, hehe. Nice story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never did figure out the guitar. Not for a lack of trying, mind you. Well, maybe a little bit.

      Delete
  17. Wow! That's an awesome story about how circumstances and a dedicated teacher can make a huge difference in a life. Very cool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know I didn't appreciate it at the time but I certainly do now.

      Delete
  18. What a wonderful teacher. I remember a math teacher who put in that kind of time with me. It made a huge difference and I've always been so thankful.

    Visiting from L.G.'s blogfest - nice to meet you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is why our teachers are so important!!

      Delete
  19. Love this story! And special kudos to your teacher (and to you, for working so hard)! My kindergarten teacher was a Mrs. MacIntyre too, God rest her. She was a pianist and made us all sing, every chance she got. She especially encouraged me and I think that's what made me want to sing professionally (though I haven't earned money for singing in over 20 years). I'm so glad that what began as a mistake opened you up to a whole new world of joy and achievement!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow! That is such a wonderful story. Talk about fate. =)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Your story makes me wonder about fate. Fun tale especially when you share it.

    ReplyDelete
  22. That is a very cool story. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  23. And in the end, weren't you and our sister both officers of the high school band in the same year? I always regretted not playing an instrument or at least joining chorus. Too busy taking French and Spanish (at the same time) I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. My senior year, I was president and B was one of the librarians, I think.

      I thought about taking French and Spanish. And then I thought about how much work that would be and decided to take study hall instead.

      Delete
    2. I took study hall. I just didn't take science or math.

      Delete
    3. I didn't take those either. Wait... what DID I do in high school? You know, besides skip classes and cause trouble...

      Delete
  24. I had forgotten how you came to join band though...it was a great story to hear. Next I think you should tell stories about Mr H's French class. And the worksheet about the Louvre movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. H could inspire an entire series of blog posts.

      Delete
  25. That's a really nice beginning story, I love how something so big started because of an accident.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Those in the theatre should understand just how impossible it is NOT to sing along with said famous musical. After all...that is why the songs were made to be so catchy...right?

    ReplyDelete
  27. That is such a cool story! Oddly, I had almost the exact opposite band experience...

    I was in band (trombone) 5th, 6th, 7th, & 8th grade. By 8th grade I'd moved up to 2nd chair in front of most of the high school kids--which scared me to death because they'd scowl at me all the time. lol But I never learned to read music! I played by ear and cheated by mimicking the slide positions of those around me. Worst of all, my band director had no clue.

    I knew in 9th grade we'd start going to competitions where I'd be required to sightread, and I couldn't. (up to 8th grade we were only allowed to perform in marching band) So I quit. My band director came up to me the first day of 9th grade and chewed me out in the hallway. He couldn't understand why I'd just give it up, but I was too embarrassed to tell him I couldn't read music--not even a little.

    I regret quitting so much. I love music. I play the guitar, sing, etc. now--all by ear--and understand NOW that I have a small gift for it, but it was just embarrassing then. I literally thought I was stunted because I'd never figured it out.

    Your story reminds me that we're all meant to be where we're meant to be. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I love how a clerical error worked to your benefit. I had something similar happen to me and guitar class. I had put it down, not really thinking I would get in as I think my third choice for an elective. Then, I got it and ended up taking guitar two as well. It was awesome. Although, I did know how to read music (better than the people in my guitar classes).

    ReplyDelete
  29. i think everyone should be forced to listen to band class! what a great story!
    where i teach now, 7th graders have to take some form of music, my boys played trombone and bass! my third i'm encoraging to do chorus (no rental fee!)

    have a good weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did chorus too. After I'd been in band for a while, I signed up for chorus. And that really, really changed my life.

      Delete
  30. Very cool story. I love music, but have never had a desire to play anything. I fancied myself playing guitar once, but well I don't know as that will ever happen. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I attempted to learn guitar but couldn't get the hang of it so I stopped trying. The other instruments came easier.

      Delete
  31. I have no idea why I WASN'T in music class in school. I really should have been.

    ReplyDelete