Life Lessons

I am stuck; my brain has taken a vacation and left me here. I hope it is having a good time wherever it is. I am having a hard time coming up with something interesting to write about so for lack of anything brilliant 🙂 this story was spurred by April’s Brilliant post

I closed my eyes in absolute ecstasy as my soul soared with the music, intertwining and becoming one. It was the most glorious instrument I had ever heard.

I clutched my mother’s arm, “Mom! What is that instrument?”

“A French horn.”

“That is the instrument I am going to play when I grow up!”

I was five. The tone, mellow and enticing had captured my heart and no release was eminent. As years passed my mother feared that I had not considered other options and was thus limiting my possibilities. I was introduced to one instrument after another, but none could liberate my heart from its imprisonment. I shook my head stubbornly to each one, “I am going to play the horn.”

In 5th grade we began instruments. “I’ll have you start on the trumpet; it will make the transition to the horn easier.” My instructor tells me.

“No, I will begin with the French horn.”

I think he was too astonished to contend with me and so an instrument was provided and my love affair with the horn began. I listened to everything written for the horn I could and tortured my parents with my horrific practicing. I was living my dream.

My junior year in high school I had slaved and slaved over Richard Strauss’ horn concerto. I was intoxicated by the music and my spirit took flight every time I played. It was the logical choice for my solo ensemble competition piece. I am not fond of performance; I get extremely nervous, but usually fair well none the less. My sophomore year I had gotten rather amazing remarks and was excited to see proof of my progress in writing from the judge.

I really shouldn’t have done it. I knew it, but curiosity got the better of me. Having arrived early to listen to my friend’s horn piece I stayed to listen to the others. The boy just before me was quite incredible, but that didn’t bother me too much, I was happy for him and enjoyed listening. At the close of his piece the judge arose from his seat and approached the front of the room.

“This young man is by far the finest horn player I have heard.” He went on to describe the perfect tone, amazing air support, dynamics, and closed with, “all young musicians should aspire to play like him.”

I was immobile. I had to play after that? My work no longer mattered, how I performed was a mere drop in a vast uncrossable ocean. Shaking from head to toe I took my seat and forgot to breathe. To play a French horn with out air is to sing with your mouth taped shut. To say it was terrible is generous. The judge once again rose from his seat and approached the front of the room.

“Were you nervous?” he asks.
Fuming and willing the tears not to come I nod my head.
“You did not breathe.”
I shook my head again.
“To increase your lung capacity you should go out to a field where no one can hear you and scream until you pass out.”
He then took his leave and returned to his seat.

I numbly stood and began my walk of shame out of the room. I could feel every eye on me. The boy caught my eye. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed and looked as embarrassed as I felt. My band director was furious. My friends were scathed. I learned an important lesson.

To play for someone else is futile. I can but play for love and joy. I revel in it, and hope that someone else will too.


Filed under Memory, Music, Personal History, Philosophy, Writing, Youth

6 responses to “Life Lessons

  1. Wow, I am so amazed by all of this. I can’t believe a judge would be stupid enough to make a comment like that KNOWING that there were yet other students to follow! I am so happy that you enjoy playing so much, I enjoy playing but I have never liked my sound as a soloist. I need to work on that.

  2. Julia, I think this is my favourite thing you have ever written — which is quite something coming from me because I’m not really someone who picks favourite things.

    The love affair with music, knowing so young what you would do, being so ready and then so not in an instant, the profound revelation that followed…

    You said on my post you were having a hard time finding anything brilliant to write. I think you dry spell has been hit with a hurricane. This was beautiful and brilliant. Thank you.

  3. Like Dana I just can’t believe that about the judge.

    And I really felt gratified that the poor boy said he was sorry — because that stupid judge ruined it for him too.

    Reminds me of Principal Skinner from The Simpsons.

  4. more kudos… julia, my favorite part of all of this is that you ultimately play for yourself.

    honestly, and coming from someone who doesn’t “know” music… but even the ignorant can feel when someone is “just musical” and when someone is a musician in their soul. it’s the difference between watching someone play for an audience- looking around and seeking approval, and the person who closes their eyes and doesn’t play the music, but becomes it.

    those are the people i admire. it sounds as if you’re one of them.

  5. Wow Julia, your post takes the cake… Loved it!!!

  6. Pingback: My Favorite Posts | Fun and Flawed

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