Wednesday, May 29, 2013


In fourth grade at the girls’ school, the kids are introduced to music via the recorder. You know what I mean, that plastic ‘musical’ instrument that makes a tinny sort of sound and makes for ‘fun’ fourth grade concerts.


Alyssa loved it. She loved the music, the practicing, the being part of a group doing the same thing and making the same horrific noise.

The last week of school, the kids were invited to the band room at school and offered the chance to try out some of the instruments. See, in fifth grade, they get to move on from the recorder to actual instruments played in actual bands.

Alyssa was pulled toward the flute.

Something you might know about me…I played the flute for eight years, from fifth grade through my senior year.

Yes. Yes, I was a band geek. Why is no one surprised?

But, as I explained to Alyssa as she bounced in the backseat of the car, anxious to get home and find my old flute (what? Of course I still have it!) I wasn’t a very good flute player. In fact, I was the worst in the band.

It took me six weeks just to figure out how to make the sound on the mouth piece. I never once challenged the players in chairs better than mine. Duh, I knew I wasn’t good enough to actually take their chair.

I just loved being in the band. I loved playing the music, even if I didn’t do it all that well.

As I pulled out that old flute and put it together for Alyssa I told her about how, in my sophomore year of high school, I was asked by our band director to be the drum major of the marching band. No, not the majorette, I didn’t carry a stupid baton. I was the drum major. I wore a whistle, I lead the band. I told them when the march, when to turn, when to mark time and even when to play music. I was in charge.

And it was awesome! I loved that part of being in the band.

I did tease my band director, though, and ask him if the reason he was offering the position to me was because I was the worst actual musician and no one would miss my flute playing. He assured me that this was not the case that, in fact, the reason he’d asked me to do it was because I could march with my feet straight in front of me and not pointed out like a duck. Well…okay then.

I also loved being in the pep band at basketball games. That was great fun even though I didn’t actually even like watching basketball. Being part of the group was what made being in the band so awesome.

We got to take fun trips, we played in the pit band for the school musicals, we went to competitions (get this, I was once in a flute quintet. We played The Entertainer. We got a first, which was top prize, from the judges. Yes, I played the third part. Someone has to play the third part. Not everyone gets to play the first and that was okay with me. It was fun.)

I want all of this for Alyssa. I want her to enjoy being part of a group, making friends in all cliques, learning to read music and feeling like she’s actually translating it for the audience.

It took her all of ten minutes to be tooting along with just the mouth piece of the flute. A half hour later, she had it put together and was making ‘music.’

She’s definitely got more of a natural aptitude for music than I do and I’m glad for her. I would love for the flute and music to come easily to her.

But I am proof that you don’t actually have to be a natural born musician to enjoy being in the band.

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