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?
You can find more Slices at Two Writing Teachers
Why not join us?