Music in My Life: Slice of Life Tuesday

I’m watching Mihael at 9 excited about playing the clarinet.  Just last Thursday his clarinet arrived and his music teacher, Mr. G. handed it to me and told him to get to know his instrument.  Of course,  I ruined his spontaneous first moments with his clarinet when I started explaining to him what the reed was for, how to gently put the pieces of the body together and how to blow gently with the mouthpiece facing the opposite way he had it.  I rained on his parade and of course, I sweetly apologized.  I left him to his fantasies.

At his charter school each parent pays for the rental of musical instruments, that’s $30.00 a month.  I know that my parents did not pay for me to experiment with the clarinet.  Yes, in the summer my mom did pay for my lessons, but band or orchestra and the necessary supplies were included in the budget, along with theater and sports.  Not all parents at Mihael’s school can afford the rental cost and there are scholarships for needy families, but it’s embarrassing for some to admit that they can’t afford it.  After all, they aren’t poor, just working in the art field and  that doesn’t bring in the bucks.

I was not passionate about the clarinet, but I played it in the band and after a few years of getting to know that “licorice stick” know that I would never take it seriously I was allowed to make the switch to the sax, the instrument I truly loved and agreed to take seriously.  I proved it to my mom and got the private lessons I dreamed about.  Eventually, I even got my own instrument and even though I sadly left my sax behind when I went off to a non-musical major at college, I never forgot what it was like to make music.

For the last 14 years, as an adult, I am making music again with my guitar.   I never forgot my sax.  I never forgot the piano I started with.  I never forgot the clarinet that I could never get a sound much beyond something muffled in cotton.  I never forgot the experience.

What’s happening now?  Are kids getting the experience to make music in school?  Do they have to pay for the experience?  What will happen the arts? I’ve heard that music teachers are being assessed on the NYS Regents exams as a whole, that they have nothing to do with?  Is that right?  Who thinks this makes any sense?

Last week, as we celebrated Tuvia’s 90 birthday, we sat for an open rehearsal of Beethoven’s 9th.   The orchestra arrived with casual clothes, the conductor, Alan Gilbert, comfortable in his black tee and matching jeans was mesmerizing as he used his body to make sense of Beethoven for the audience and his players.  When we returned from a needed intermission,  fueled with strong coffee and a corn muffin, the chorus had arrived to fill the empty seats behind the orchestra.  I was in heaven, in tears of passion.  Yes, I could appreciate the sound of the clarinet.  I’m happy that Mihael is getting his time with his and with a teacher and a band.

Is every kid getting a chance to experience music firsthand?

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13 thoughts

  1. Our kids at school have to rent an instrument, but they get lessons during the school day. My children both took lessons…my daughter didn’t love her instrument and prefer to run and pass the basketball, however, my son would never ever stop playing his music…he plays the bass. I’m so glad at least that music has not been cut in our schools. I loved visualizing you playing the sax…it suits you. xo nanc

  2. Music is a big part of life. My brother played the clarinet and sax although he was never in the school band. I never played a band instrument although id do play, dare I admit, the accordion.

  3. Music is part of who you are. The music bubble in my life is small. I never learned to play an instrument. As most Estonians I did sing in a choir during school time. It would be sad if music education would diminish. If anything, there should be more music and art to brighten the world.

  4. Always arts and music – the stuff that nourishes us – gets deemed unnecessary and superfluous by the powers that be. May the clarinet bring younf Mihael much joy.

  5. I wanted to play the flute, but we couldn’t afford it. I regret that my life did not include an instrument. You were lucky you had instrument choices. I hope the powers that be never remove fine arts from school. Happy birthday to Tuvia! I would have never guessed his age from your photos.

  6. Nope, they’re not getting to experience arts and music like they should. When I lived and taught in NYC, my students were part of the Lincoln Center Institute. (IT was a grade-wide thing.) They had music class once a week, but I think they played recorder. However, that’s not the case for most students.
    BTW: My parents are going to Avery Fisher Hall to see Beethoven’s 9th tonight. I have a feeling they’ll really enjoy it.

  7. After 6 years of band, I gave up the clarinet thinking I didn’t need it anymore. Three years ago, a woman I taught with was trying to gather musicians for the community band. I didn’t have a clarinet, hadn’t played it in nearly 20 years in fact, but she borrowed one for me and I joined the band. It was a great experience! It all came back to me, like riding a bike. I play the piano regularly, a skill that also has it’s roots in school lessons. Where would I be without music in my life? Luckily my parents and grandmother pulled together the money so I could have it. Where I live now, some schools get the lessons and some don’t depending on some very arbitrarily assigned music teachers. I could write several posts about that!! What a shame.

  8. You can’t talk to my brother, now a retired music teacher (and one so popular that over half his middle school signed up for band & they had to hire assistants for him), about this. He gets so upset that art & music are the first things cut. His school system has cut all but a few lessons before middle school age (& they should be starting earlier). I was in band & choir all through college-sorry I am still not doing something, but love the concerts. Also, with the pressure to get to the top in high school, some of my students elect “not” to do music because the classes are weighted less-a real tragedy! Bonnie, I’m always so inspired to hear you talk about your guitar lessons, so great. Love this shout out for music!

  9. I can understand now it was a sacrifice for my parents to pay the “rent to own” payments for the flute I started playing in 6th grade and continued through jr. high and high school band. I enjoyed my flute and being part of the band (except during the dog days of summer when we practiced marching!). I learned both pop music and classical.

    So far, we still have music (and art) in all schools in our district, with fine arts magnets at every level, too. My classroom is across the hall from the music room. Each year I hear the band grow from squeaks and squawks to playing familiar beginning band tunes. The instruments are made available free to our students. But most of the elementary art and music teachers travel between two or more schools during the week…

  10. I started thinking about my clarinet playing days. I was an okay player, not great. But I have always remembered the experiences I had while playing. They made my life richer!

  11. Music is important to the development of children. Our students still have the opportunity but not as much as I would like. We just attended my niece’s concert last night. Delightful for her; memorable for us.

  12. I played the clarinet for a few years in middle school, and music has always been a part of my life through singing in choirs and choruses. I can’t imagine my own life without the arts, and I incorporate them into my lessons every chance I get. Thankfully, our school has a strong art and music program. So glad you and Tuvia had a chance to hear Beethoven’s 9th. What a perfect choice for a 90th birthday celebration!

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