Friday, October 24, 2014

My Musical Career

      In 1936, during the Depression,  I was having trouble in school and my mother was called to the Principal’s Office.  I believe the problem was “talking too much” – probably disruptive in class, perhaps because I was only 10 years old in the 7th grade.  We’d moved around a lot, doubling up with relatives as Daddy’s employers went out of business one after another.  I’d  go from a progressive school to a backward one and be “skipped” a grade.  They did that in those days.
     The principal suggested therapy -- it must have been free -- at the Judge Baker Foundation in Boston.  They evidently recommended “enrichment”, for I suddenly found myself joining the Girl Scouts, attending camp (on scholarship), and taking free clarinet lessons at school.
     A few years ago, my friend Mary wrote on her impressive University letterhead to the Foundation and secured the transcripts of my interviews.  Reading them over, I was surprised to see that The Depression was like another member of our family.  A clarinet reed cost 25 cents, the instruction book cost 25 cents, and the family was discussing – which should we buy first?
     The school lent me an instrument that was antique even for those days – a one-piece metal clarinet.  I could join the junior high band as soon as I’d memorized the third clarinet part to “Military Escort” – I remember it to this day.
     But what I started out to tell you was that my clarinet teacher told me he’d been playing in the band at the PanAmerican Exposition in Buffalo when President McKinley was shot.  I had a vague feeling that meant he was extremely old.  Recently figured he might have been in his 20s that day in Buffalo, in his 50s when he told me – younger than any of my kids are right now.
     Some years ago I joined a seniors ensemble sponsored by the Eastman School of Music, a group eventually named the  New Horizons Band.  That  always sounded to me like a drug re-hab group --  I had proposed The Grateful Living.  Anyhow -- some years after that I found my embouchure was going the way of all the other muscles, back hurt sitting in rehearsal, hearing was threatened by the trumpets, and brain started hearing music as jumbled cacophony.
      End of my musical career.  My clarinets ended up on eBay, all but one -- my granddaughter has it in Vancouver.  She didn't need a teacher -- you can learn an instrument these days just by watching YouTube.


  1. There's so much good stuff in this post it's hard to know what to comment on, but I'll confine myself to this: Better to have had a musical career and said goodbye to it than never to have had one at all. I'm in the same position as Lady Catherine de Bourgh: "If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient."

  2. I seem to recall that by the mid 70's, when I began to study clarinet, reeds had gone up to at least a buck, perhaps more!