Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Living Rural, Having Talent, Zero Opportunity

I was a band geek in school. Ever since 4th grade when they loaned us instruments that we were supposed to learn over the summer, I have always been a music geek. In my school, that meant being pretty much alone. Although for several years there were a few others that were there for the band, most everyone was there for the easy A. I was determined, practiced a lot (even when I didn't need to - there wasn't that much challenging material), and I loved flute! I played a flute that was in an ugly green case for many years before my mom found a beautiful open hole flute and it was a great deal! I still have that flute today and I whip it out now and then.

In school, there is always opportunity to play. We had every day band. Concerts. The competitions. Extra stuff like graduation or senior tea. Stuff here and there. Fun stuff! And as a music geek, I had the opportunity to play several instruments. Seventh grade, our one year music teacher caused a stir; she was young, pretty, and knew what she was talking about. Tuning? What is tuning? We found out in a hurry! She threw me on oboe, and I'm telling you if I love anything more than flute it was oboe! That instrument is a completely different breed, and I'd give almost anything to get my hands on one (except about 3,000$ which is apparently what they cost to get a "real" one!).
I played saxophone for some jazz band type stuff. I played the french horn a couple times. I played a bit of trumpet! I even played bari sax! I would have played clarinet, but to avoid family squabbles, I avoided playing things my sister was already playing (but that didn't stop me from fiddling with it when she wasn't around!)
I was THE band geek. I was the only senior in band my senior year, but even if I hadn't been, I was the award winning total band geek package.

In college it was even better because instead of me and a bunch of kids in it for the goof off class and easy A, every single person who was in the band groups I was in was there because they CHOSE to be there. They were PAYING to be there. And every person there loved it. My first year was such a shock because I went to a music school. I quickly realized my inadequacy in comparison (back to the never challenging enough material), but it didn't take me but a short time to "catch up" and be just as good (I thought) as anyone else there. Well, I guess that's not entirely true; you don't get to be first chair in a college band without being above and beyond, but I was as good as the other average kids there.

And it was a BLAST! When the entire room full of students want to be there, there is just a different level of feeling and spirit in the room. Pieces come together much quicker, which means you can work on tougher material. I talked to the jazz prof about being in jazz band, and he made the quick decision to throw me on bari sax in Jazz 2. I had played bari for about 3 months. Jazz 2 was the 2nd out of 4 "levels" of jazz band that they had. I played 2nd bari next to a guy who was a "super senior".
I won't tell you that I didn't feel the pressure. That was an enormous amount of pressure. I actually had to practice more than I thought I would have. I was playing with kids who had been there a few years, who were TOP musicians, some of which went on 2nd semester to be in Jazz 1. As soloists. Improvisers. Knew their scales so well they could play anything without a single note. I hadn't even heard of such a thing before.  When we played anything in high school, we had notes. I can HEAR what I should be playing, but that doesn't mean my fingers cooperate. I don't think I was ever the one to sit around playing scales repeatedly (though in hindsight, I wish I had!). My great grandfather had the ability to hear a song once, and sit down and play it. I wonder, had I had a piano and the opportnity, if I would have had the same luck? I can definitely play things after hearing them ... though I don't know how to play piano, so it's hard to say. Even so, my fingers are often going as if there's some inner tune playing.

It always drove me crazy when other people played as if they couldn't hear it. Can't you hear it? I was always so frustrated. Can't you hear you are playing a note wrong? I mean, ok, once, but every time? And that rhythm, don't you know it is totally off?

Anyway, the last year of college I went to a community college while planning our wedding. That was an extreme disappointment. There were no performances, therefore no incentive to play. It was this purposeless thing. You weren't learning anything, you weren't doing anything, you weren't heading for anything. Show up, play a piece, play another piece, end. It wasn't hard then to choose to stay at the part time child care job, rather than leave that, drive across town, go to band for an hour, drive across town and finish the job. I ended the semester with an incomplete, "supposing" that if I ever went back I was to "finish" the credit. Tell me, what motivation do I have to go back to a band with no purpose? Especially after years and years of purpose to my playing, purpose to the ensemble, and talent? This was like going back to high school, minus Christmas concert, Spring concert, pep fest, etc. 

Now I live in rural noplace. I think at some point, and probably still, there is a community band that plays in a town about 50 miles away. Obviously, I don't make that drive. No one around here plays "real" band music, the only musicians around here are "rock bands" or "country bands" or "cover bands". Local resorts have bands come play quite often, and there is quite a handful of them to choose from. Some are good, some aren't. I don't go see bands because I'm not into the bar scene, so I can't be a judge of it, but I know there are some people out there doing the gig, but not really being a musician. Luckily for them, people in this area aren't music geeks (or autistic), so they don't care, and when you're drunk a bunch of singing frogs would sound good, so it matters little I guess.

But its disappointing. My one passion has been and probably always will be music. Playing music. Could I have been in an orchestra and playing "the big time" like the Minnesota Orchestra or something? I am pretty confident I could have, eventually. However, I would have to live in Minneapolis, and I'm certain I am not willing to do that. The town 50 miles away isn't bad. I'm not wanting to live IN town. I just want to live close enough to a band to be a part of it. Close enough to a community that cares and values real music. I have no outlet for this, no real motivation to do anything where I'm at. And I can feel how much of a part of my life is missing, empty. Watching my brother in his band and choir the past few years has been almost like living it. How much I desire that. I want that. I want college forever just to have a band to play in, a choir to sing in. I need this. This is what's missing.

My son is 6 and a good age to start playing something. He is interested in piano and violin, two perfectly wonderful instruments. Again, 50 miles is not a distance that we can choose to drive often enough to manage lessons, not to mention the cost of the lessons in the first place. I could get him a violin and probably teach him myself, or even use the internet. Still, getting ahold of that violin isn't as attainable as I would like. One thing I know, I don't want my son growing up without a musical outlet. This kid sits in his room playing cars and legos, singing at the top of his lungs all these tunes he's made up (sometimes mixed with something he's heard). He never hits a wrong note. He loves music. This morning he said that listening to the radio (classical minnesota public radio) is nice (he listens every single night all night long to sleep), but he prefers The Four Seasons. HAHAH! He conducts, he knows every note, he is already a music geek.

And unlike me, I want to give him the opportunities I didn't have. I want him to be able to learn piano. You can do so much with piano that you just can't do with a flute. I want him to learn violin, so he can play The Four Seasons. I want him to have the opportunity to have so much more than I had, musically, and I don't want him to have to dumb down to a music program that is not at his level. That wasn't fair for me, and it's not fair for him either.

So, I'm hoping for someday soon to be able to have more for him. Give him what I didn't get. That, I guess, is my focus. However, if we get the opportunity to move to a place where he can have that, maybe I can have it too.

No comments:

Post a Comment