Monday, July 12, 2010

If Taylor Swift Had Been A 'Band Kid'...

It has been far too long since my last entry, which I swear won't happen again without good reason. It's been a busy two weeks; I went to the masterclass in Malibu and last week I got back to the cycle of work, practice, eat, repeat. Today I taught another beginning flute lesson, which was less inspiring than a Dr. G masterclass, but still made me reflect on my life as a flute player. It's been my life for the last eight years, and even before then it was something I took relatively seriously. In sixth grade I played in the entry-level Minnesota Youth Symphony orchestra. The following year I won my division of the Upper Midwest Flute Association's annual competition. I took these (along with my growing appreciation for the orchestral repertoire) as signs that this was what I was meant to do. Obviously these successes were in part due to my work and practice, but (I realize this sounds cliche, but I swear it's true!) I wouldn't have come close without the people around me who (whether they knew it or not at the time) inspired, encouraged, and pushed me to practice harder, better, faster...stronger?
My most obvious helper was my mother, who until about eighth grade sat in on all of my lessons and practice sessions. She knew I wanted to be the best I could be, and I think that she wants my dreams to come true just as much as she would had it been her dream. Today, she couldn't sit in on my lessons even if she wanted to and her practice-time comments have waned into friendly reminders rather than [what I considered] harsh, persistent critique. Without this second pair of ears, though, I don't know where I'd be.
My teachers and conductors (ALL OF THEM) taught me what music really means. Not only did each and every person I've worked with give everything they had for the sake of the music, but they painted a picture or a scene or a story to make every piece of music come alive. It was these fabulous musicians who really inspired me to get inside the music, to go beyond the notes, and to give the audience something to really chew on. They also taught their entire ensemble how to manage teamwork. Teamwork is especially difficult in a situation like an orchestra where every single person has such a strong personality...
...but it was these personalities that I found amongst my peers that really gave me a sense of competition and drive. When I got placed in an ensemble with better musicians than myself I'd practice extra hard so that I'd know I was pulling my own weight. When I knew my friends were practicing hours every day, I'd see if I could practice that much to keep up with them. And finally when I just knew that 'all the cool kids' were going to be in the best ensemble, I'd put on my game face and do whatever I needed to do to ensure a spot amongst the elite. The personalities found in an orchestra are not unlike high school cliques...
(Keep in mind, the following is not inteded to be offensive, nor is it what I believe. These stereotypes are merely cumulative generalizations based on stories, experiences, and individual incidents. They are not in any way directed at any individuals.)
  • violins-(the student council kids) these hard-working yet soft-spoken folks carry along the orchestra, though usually only the concertmaster really gets to shine as an individual.
  • violas-(the geeks) no other section in the orchestra is this tight-knit, has this many inside jokes, or for that matter is the butt of as many jokes...
  • cellos-(the bookworms) generally well-liked, the cello section is where you go to find those guys who weren't hot until you took off their glasses a la Clark Kent...
  • stringed bass-(the artsy kids) they don't care what you play or what you think about them. They just want to play some music.
  • flutes-(the cheerleaders) they won't say or do anything mean to your face, they'll just give you 'the look' then tell all their friends that you play out of tune.
  • oboes-(the NHS kids) similar to the violins, the oboes are the well-dressed nerds; earnest and friendly once you get to know them.
  • clarinets-(the gossip girls) remember that kid who told you every dirty detail of everyone's lives (and was probably telling everyone the details about yours)? He played clarinet.
  • bassoons-(the dorks) you might love them, you might hate them...but when push comes to shove you can't play Stravinsky without them.
  • trumpets-(the preppy jocks) they can play higher than you, they can play louder than you, they can also probably get the girl quicker than you.
  • trombones-(the dumb jocks) sometimes you just have to sit back and wonder what's going through their heads...oh's nothing...
  • french horns- (this guy) everybody knows them, nobody can label them, everybody in some way wants to be like them.
  • tubas-(that guy)-you know that redhead kid who seems to be on every Disney Channel show at some point and is always named Bob? He'd make a great tuba player.
  • percussion-(the space case) the kid who is always late, never does his homework, asks ten questions every class, and the teacher still loves them...
It is a combination of these personalities that make my life as a musician so much fun. Whether I love them or hate them, life is never boring. Gosh, now I only have to wait two months to get back to the land of Milk and Honey where I'll be living in this saga every day!


  1. haha! I love your definition of percussionist!


  2. Those are awesome descriptions! Especially (or maybe except) the trombones....haha