Thursday, June 25, 2015

Here's a #TBT, text style.

That's me in my middle-school band uniform with my best buddy, Tobie.

Yes, I was a band geek. As a child, I played a variety of instruments, most significantly viola and later saxophone (tenor, thankyoueverymuch). Music, specifically making music, plugged me into a furious passion I later came to understand as primarily an energetic issue. The incredible highs and even bodily pleasure that playing music created is about energy. Both of the individual, and the larger creation of a group. But that's for another post.

Anyway, while I was overall outgoing, my feelings about my own musical talents were somewhat meek. Improvising, or playing solo in a crowd terrified me. But I knew I was pretty good. High school had three levels of band, with the top being symphonic band. Usually reserved for super players, seniors or band-director pets, I wanted in. I'd started playing in middle school, and had been in marching band as a freshman.

Looking back, my relationship with my band director was even more strange, bizarre and messed up than I realized at the time. To make a long story short, he wasn't inclined to put me into that band as a sophomore. But I was left somewhat unchallenged by the work of the band I was in. So, I pushed. The details of how that worked are somewhat fuzzy now, but involved some yelling, screaming, banging on desks and even crying. But there is one thing I remember clear as day.

I'm allowed to sit in with the symphonic band and play. Put before me is a piece derived from Dvorak's New World Symphony. I'd never heard it. I'd certainly never played it. Portions of the pages were absolutely crazy smatterings of notes, long chains of 8ths and 16ths that would be incredibly challenging -- ok, let's be honest, impossible -- on a first read. Off we go. I'm in the 2nd row, about 2 o'clock of the director, so I know he can hear every. single. note.

I nailed it.

He looked pissed off when we were done. So he says, "Amy, let me hear you play the first two lines on page 2." He grinned like the lion about to take down the gazelle.

Asshole! That's the hardest part. You know I hate to be called out. Even the first chair alto who is a freakin' superstar looks like, "What the fu...."

I know my face went white, and my blood ran cold. I took a deep breath and dove it.

And. I. Nailed. It.

To be honest, I have NO idea how.

I let my instrument hang by the strap, sat back, crossed my hands in my lap and stared at him. And he stared back at me. For about five seconds. Silence in the band room. I will never forget that. The usually boisterous, big room was silent, save for the whoosh of the AC.

He stared back, then looked down, shook his head and chuckled a little bit. And then we moved on, and I stayed in symphonic. And we continued to love/hate each other for another year until he pissed me off so badly that I quit band. I took my sax to college with me but never touched it. Eventually I sold it.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made.

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