When I was about nine years old my parents saddled me with an incredible burden, they signed me up for clarinet lessons and even bought a nice Buffet clarinet for me to use. I thought it was the most uncool instrument imaginable, not even close to being on the same level with the drums or trumpet; cool kids played the drums, my parents deemed me clarinet material. I was crushed, but took it like a man. Actually, since my father went to the expense of actually buying a clarinet, I had no other choice.
I actually progressed (I thought) pretty quickly, even with minimal practice, and played in the school band, eventually the school orchestra, and was also invited to join the District Band, I thought it a big honor and considered myself pretty hot stuff on the ol’ licorice stick. Yet, after middle school, I put the instrument down and thought I’d never play it again. Not that I didn’t enjoy good clarinet playing, I did, and throughout my life was thrilled when I heard the glissando from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and had several versions of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in my CD collection. I never lost my hidden fascination with the clarinet.
Fast forward (very fast it seems in retrospect) to retirement and a sudden, not well considered inspiration hit me to try once again to play the instrument of my school days. About two months ago, I finally decided to do something about it and began researching music stores and trying to find an instructor, not an entirely easy task as it turned out. In the end I settled on a music store to work with where a rental instrument was easily and inexpensively available. When I was in college, a young cousin of mine started to play clarinet in school and my mother strongly suggested, since I was no longer playing, that I give him my beloved Buffet, and I finally gave in and did so. I regret that to this day since I think I had a classic wood Buffet that would cost a good deal of money to replace. Oh well.
Anyway, about five weeks ago lessons began, and what an eye opener. My instructor, Jay, focuses on classical clarinet and insists on proper technique for breath control, tempo, and posture. What an eye opener, it turned out that even though I had spent a lot of time playing the clarinet it school, much of what I learned consisted simply of bad habits. Turns out, it’s hard work playing the clarinet and yet I’m throughly enjoying it. I’m learning to properly read music, even to the point I can decently sight read simple songs, something I could never do in school. I’m also spending at least 45 minutes every day in practice, also something I never dreamed of doing in school, I just played around with the instrument.
I don’t know where all of this musical endeavor will end up, if I’ll be able to play in a band or some kind of group, or just keep tootling away on my own and it’s not important. The important point is that I’m becoming reacquainted with an old friend, someone I thought I knew well but never did, and enjoying every minute of it.
Oh, by the way, I’m a bit tardy with this post because I had to stop to get my clarinet practice in for the day.