Sunday, January 27, 2008

For the Love of Playing

I've been playing the clarinet since I was 12. That means a whopping 16 years! In spite of the number of years I've been playing, I am by no means an extraordinary player. I still can't sightread for the life of me, I have to look up fingerings for ridiculously high notes, my brain doesn't make the connection that B-sharp = C-natural quite as quickly as I'd like, and I fumble easily when the conductor picks up the tempo. Sometimes all of these things really frustrate me, especially when it all comes so darn naturally to some of the people I play with in the ensemble I'm in.

I was very heavily-involved in music throughout high school, playing in both the concert band for all 4 years, and then later the stage band in my final year. I loved every minute of it. I thought I'd play forever. Then I started university, and it all became about school school school until my 4th year, when I finally learned to relax and joined an amateur ensemble. I stuck around for all of my 4th year, left when I started working, came back for a semester, and then left again. The thing was, it just wasn't fun anymore. The pieces were hard, the conductor always conducted too fast, and I was working so much that I didn't have time to practice. The passion for music that I'd had in high school was gone.

It sucked, because without playing in an ensemble, there was no way that I'd ever be playing my clarinet again. I have to face it: playing a band instrument solo in my basement is not the most exciting thing in the world. I have an alto sax gathering dust in my basement because I don't get to play it anywhere. Playing jazz tunes by myself just isn't the same thing. And so the alto sax remains silent...

Then one day, I wonderful thing happened: I learned how to say "no" at work. It's a very empowering moment when you realize that work/life balance is in your hands, and not in your boss' hands. I started to have a life again, and along with my newfound life, I also found the desire to play again. So I re-joined the band I was with in my 4th year.

Then we switched conductors, and I started to get jaded again. The conductor and I don't exactly see eye-to-eye, and his musical selection over the last year has not been very audience-friendly. Practice started becoming a burden once again, and once again, I started to question whether or not I should even be in the band anymore. What's the point if I don't enjoy it anymore?

So far, I've decided to stick it out, though I've been close to leaving a couple of times. The thing is, I can't seem to bring myself to do it. If I leave, I lose that momentum. I lose that musical part of me again. And this time, it may never come back. I hate fumbling up a piece, but when I do nail a piece, it's the most awesome feeling in the world. Plus nothing beats playing to an audience. Mind you, the audience is mainly comprised of friends and family, but it's an audience nonetheless.

Of course, there's yet another thing which keeps me coming back: now that I'm pregnant, it will be extra important to keep on playing once junior makes his/her world d├ębut, so that I can get some time to myself once a week. And who knows...maybe junior will someday take up a musical instrument too! :)

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