Friday, July 23, 2010

Music Lessons

I can’t play music. I tried piano lessons. My big sister was going to teach me. Her expectations were high. I didn’t want to practice. I cried and pouted. She was mad. We shut it down after two classes.

I love music. I grew up with 78s and 45s and LPs and 8 tracks and cassettes and CDs. I listen to lots of music, preferably loud.

I’m sorry that I can’t play. I’m happy that I love music anyways. I’m thrilled that my kids love music and can play it too. As babies, they listened to Fred Penner and Raffi and Patsy Cline and John Hiatt and Led Zeppelin and Prince and George Harrison and Johnny Winter…

As young children, they actually enjoyed piano lessons with energetic, enthusiastic teachers (who were not related to them…important lesson learned).

In elementary school, they mastered recorders and ukuleles and proudly played them in crowded gyms for parents and grandparents and siblings.

Then came the big step up to junior high. I fussed and worried about how they would cope, given my somewhat unpleasant memories of those early teen years. I tried to keep an open mind, and was happy that each one chose to go into the band program.

My first son chose the clarinet. He squeaked along with the patient support and ready sense of humour of his band teacher. (Thank you Ms. Inniss!) My daughter chose the French horn. I’m told it’s difficult to play. She played it well. More support. More positive feedback. (Thank you Mr. Brandon!) My second son chose euphonium (what the heck is that, I wondered) then quickly switched to double bass. I don’t know if he got to change instruments because he was talented at bass or because he was simply big enough to handle this oversized device…but again, encouraging words and extra challenges (Thanks again Mr. Brandon!) helped my son play beautifully.

And so we got to high school (and I say we, because it’s the kids and the parents that have to make this new adjustment!) My clarinet player was now quite accomplished and chose to major in Performing Arts. In the beginning, his skills were nurtured by several teachers. (Thank you Ms. Dawson, Mr. Houston & Mr. Gardner!). In Grades 11 & 12, his skills were refined and perfected. Along with clarinet, he played guitar, bass and double bass. He played in concert band, symphonic band, jazz band. He accompanied the choir. He entertained at Star Search and WarChild. He became a musician. He graduated with honours. Thank you Mr. Johnson. Do you remember meeting us on a Saturday morning at St. John’s Music to help us pick out a professional clarinet? Do you remember giving us your home phone number so we could call you if we had any concerns or questions? I remember that.

My French horn player also chose to continue with the band program in high school. She was warmly welcomed. (Thank you again Mr. Houston & Mr. Gardner!) In Grade 11, she was ready for Mr. Johnson. She had watched him with her brother and knew that he was big and intimidating and funny and emotional and demanding. She was up for the challenge. She practiced. She played her horn with confidence. She learned some percussion too, when he needed her help. She became a musician. She graduated with honours. Thank you Mr. Johnson. Do you remember talking to me in September, a couple of years ago and asking me about my daughter’s trip to Second City Boot Camp in Chicago? Do you remember how excited we both were that she was brave enough to have done that? I remember.

My double bass player spent many evenings over the years squirming in uncomfortable seats in the theatre, watching Mr. Johnson conduct while his brother and sister played. This fall, it is my youngest son’s turn to play. As he chose his options for Grade 10, he decided to also major in Performing Arts. I told him that Mr. Johnson would not be teaching him. “I’m disappointed. I wanted to have him for a teacher,” he said. My son would have benefited from Mr. Johnson’s expertise and expectations at this higher level. The MBA Summer Band Camps have already given him a taste of future possibilities. Thank you Mr. Johnson. Do you remember sending me an email a while back saying that you were looking forward to teaching my last child? I do.

My family and I will always love music, even though I never did learn to play. My last son will continue in the band program, even though Mr. Johnson will not be there. We will miss Mr. Johnson.

We will enjoy my son’s concerts.

But I wonder if the notes will sound as sweet.

©Conni Cartlidge, 2008

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