As you probably already know, I’ve always thought my brother was one of the coolest people ever. When I was younger I wanted to be just like him, to do everything he did, I loved everything he liked. My brother used to play the clarinet in the band at our school, so naturally, when I got old enough, I too wanted to play the clarinet. The difference being my brother actually had musical talent. He never had to practice much. My mom signed him up to take lessons with someone at a local music store, and he and the music teacher would just play music together, it was more of a jam session than a lesson, because like I said, he actually had natural talent.
I on the other hand had none. I had to practice ALL the time. When I first started in band I was at a Catholic Elementary School. There were about 5 of us. So really it was more of a group of misfits than a band. We had a clarinet, a trumpet, I think someone played the flute, and for one year we had someone on the drums. To look at this in a positive light, we were all first chair all the time.
The music teacher was an older gentlemen, with a white mustache stained yellow from cigarettes and white hair with a little bit of purple. Also from cigarette smoke? I mean I really have no idea because he didn’t seem like the type of person who would dye it. It was very passionate about music; sadly he was in a school that had no interest in encouraging the kids to have interest in it. Aside from band, we would all go to music class once a week and sing along to songs he played on the piano. Other days he would play music on a little stereo, and walk around while we all had to sit still and listen. Sitting still and listening is very hard when you’re young. My friend use to spend the class period trying to steal the little plastic comb that the teacher kept in his back pocket as he walked by. We all thought it was hilarious. What rebels we little Catholic children were.
Band became a little more serious when I switched schools in 7th grade and started going to a school that actually appreciated the arts. I mean they had a band ROOM, with stands, instruments, practice rooms, a place to put your instrument case, and each section of the band had more than one kid. Seriously, there were like 30 kids. If I didn’t know I didn’t have any musical talent yet, I sure as hell found out when I stepped into that class for the first time.
I figured out very early on that I’d been playing my clarinet wrong the entire time. I had been simply blowing puffs of air for each note, and apparently I was supposed to be pushing my tongue against the reed. Don’t get weird people this is real musical talk here. Anyway, this was pointed out to me in front of the entire band class of people who already I’m sure labeled me as weirdo new kid (I wore extra large Nsync concert t-shirts to school, I had earned that label) during a playing test and the band teacher had me play the notes over and over again for what felt like days when it was really just like 45 minutes, and everyone just stared. It was horrifying. He then told me I would need to do it again the next day.
Hell to the no thank you sir. I pretended to be sick that day and my mom, who never used to let us stay home, actually bought it (I’m sure she probably didn’t, my mom knew everything. She’s a mother for god sakes they have psychic powers.) I practiced that clarinet and that stupid technique the whole damn day.
I began to hate the clarinet, and band class. You see, when I left Catholic school, we were still in the giggling about boys stage and loving boy bands and talking about how cute boys were. During one of my first band classes, while the teacher was focusing on another kid who clearly had not practiced for his playing test and was playing random notes just to get through it, I was being tortured by some of the other kids in the clarinet section.
I had a lot of social issues, so while everyone else was chatting I was air playing my clarinet to prevent further embarrassment in front of everyone. One of the girls next to me commented on something I was wearing. I was wearing a vest and a long sleeve shirt and some windbreaker pants. My mom had taken me to JCPenney to buy new clothes when I started public school, because I’d always had to wear uniforms and I needed new things to wear. She’d shown me these outfits on the front of a catalogue and said, “This is what the kids are wearing right now.” I went with it, because I was behind most of my peers in being conscious about fashion.
“You dress weird.” The girl said. She was wearing a low cut top and huge sweatpants that were pulled up on one side to the bottom of her calf. She had her hair in a bun with two braids down each side.
I didn’t know how to properly respond, so I shrugged and went back to looking at my sheet music. She then looked at two other boys who were also in our section. They whispered and laughed, and then she turned back to me, “Do you know what a French kiss is?” I told her yes, I mean, I’d seen romantic comedies. I wasn’t a complete moron. She laughed and went back to talking with the boys. A second later she said, “Have you ever seen a penis?”
That one caught me off guard. Had I seen one? No, no I had not. I mean I was like 13. But I contemplated for a moment what the cool answer would be in this situation. I decided to be safe in case there was a follow-up question after. I shook my head no, and turned away from them. I was getting very uncomfortable. The room seemed to get very warm, and everyone’s talking seemed to get louder, and the room started to feel smaller.
A few minutes later she was tapping me on the shoulder again, “Do you know what a blow job is?” She got me with that one. I had no idea what the hell that was. I was THIRTEEN. I mean, are thirteen year olds supposed to know what that is? I mean, thirteen year olds now I’m sure know what it means, but in the early 2000’s? My mom got upset when we watched MTV and Britney Spears had on hip hugger jeans and a bra.
I looked at the girl bewildered. Shook my head no, and just stared at the wall with my clarinet on my lap. I felt insecure, I felt like an idiot, because what was a blow job? Oh don’t worry she would go on to explain it to me, while her and the other two boys laughed and laughed. They continued for the rest of the class period, asking me about things that I’d never heard of and laughing. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. I can’t even tell you what else they asked me because I think I’ve blocked it out due to trauma.
That girl tortured me until she went away to another school after 8th grade. I mean I wouldn’t say tortured I guess, she just enjoyed pointing out all my flaws and making me feel insecure and making second guess everything I did. “Why do you talk like that?” she asked me once. Or when we were in the band room before one of our concerts, she was so kind to point out how ugly my shoes were. As if I had money at that time to buy my own damn shoes. I got what my mother paid for, I had no idea about fashion so I didn’t make good decisions, and terrible mistakes were made. But don’t worry; it’s always good to have a classmate to point it all out for you, loudly, in front of everyone.
I hated band until 10th grade when new people entered our class and I actually liked the people in my section. But I ended up quitting it the minute they said I didn’t need to take band anymore, which was when I made my schedule for 11th grade. In all honesty I just wasn’t good at it. I wasn’t terrible, but I had to practice constantly and couldn’t focus on my other classes as much. My final year of Solo & Ensemble Competitions went terribly. My mom sent me to the same music teacher than my brother went to, and instead of us just jamming together, I struggled to work on the piece he picked for me to play for competition. The clarinet just wasn’t my calling, and if we’re also being truthful, I used to get the worst headaches playing. I took so much Tylenol and Ibuprofen during my clarinet playing days that it’s really amazing my intestines haven’t just shriveled up and died.
There was one good thing that came out of all of it, though. Being in band got me my first trip to Florida, my first time on a plane, my first time being far away from my parents and with my friends. It was my first trip to Disney and Universal, our band played at the Hard Rock Café, the same stage that Nsync performed on (seriously, it was a big deal), and showed me that amazing things existed outside of my Saginaw, Michigan bubble. I still have all the tickets from that trip, random travel guides I picked up, a pair of 3D glasses from the Shrek ride. That’s right, I STOLE SOME 3D GLASSES TAKE THAT UNIVERSAL. I’m still such a rebel.
I witnessed my first Florida storm while walking around the All Star Music resort with my friend looking for a vending machine. The sky lit up brighter than I’d ever seen, and the thunder shook the ground. The air was thick and I remember it started to rain as we ran, laughing, trying to remember how to get back to our room. All the buildings looked the same, and the lightning bolts cracked the sky to pieces. We stood in the middle of a courtyard, where were we? Didn’t we come from that way? I used to be so scared of storms, but for some reason there I wasn’t afraid.
That trip made me feel like I could do anything, go anywhere. I may not have any natural music talent, but if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that 1. My brother is still the coolest person ever, and 2. There’s nothing I love more than an adventure.
PS – If you’re reading this from my Facebook, don’t worry, I have not broken my no social media for Lent thing. Somewhere else is automatically posting this for me. LOOPHOLE! #winning