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Remembering Music

Recently I paid a bunch of money to have my collection of musical instruments hauled down to Florida from Maine. They’re a menagerie of mostly non-functional noise makers, but I can’t seem to part with them because they represent one of the few areas in my life that I’ve ever been passionate about.

This morning, a guy came to deal with our cockroach problem. He walked around in each room to look for places where the little buggers might be infiltrating. When he got to the music room, he asked me, “Who’s the musician?”

He told me about his experiences with music in his youth, all the instruments he’d learned to play in school, about opting for study hall the year they told him he’d have to play the clarinet because he’d been out sick the first week of school and the only choice left was the clarinet. We laughed at our mutual distaste for that particular instrument (my apologies — some of my favorite people were clarinet players!). He told me about his daughters all playing the saxophone, but stopping once they left school — “We only played it to make you happy, Dad…” He had learned to play the drums and when they introduced the quads in marching band, he was suddenly very popular.

Then he went off to Viet Nam. Though his tour of duty there was only 10 months, he spent 20 years in the army. He even did a stint as a bugler. To his dismay, he was brought back into active service at the end of his career when Desert Storm began but he managed to pull duty checking ID tags at Fort Stewart. He said that he’d wanted to learn to play the banjo — his grandmother had been a banjo player — but a war injury had affected his right arm and he no longer had the ability to use his fingers that way.

We chatted for a while about what a shame it is that there doesn’t seem to be much reason to play anymore. Besides the lack of opportunity to play with others, there is a frivolousness that is ingrained from long ago when we were told not to take it to seriously — “There’s no money in the arts”.

That may be true, but it didn’t stop me from starting my college career as a music education major since I had become a proficient enough trumpet player to earn a scholarship. Though my college degree was incomplete and my teaching career unrealized, my love for the instruments themselves goes on. In their old age they are becoming tarnished and unusable, but in my eyes they are getting more beautiful every day. My little kid friends come over and just say “WWWOOWWWW!!!” as they grab each one and have that same experience I had as a kid with the instruments my mom had collected and then displayed on the walls of our living room for decoration.

There is something about just touching a musical instrument, feeling it, even if you don’t know how it works. I have seen it many times already since the instruments arrived several weeks ago. My 5-year-old art student paraded us back to her house yesterday with the bugle. She’s quite good!

Most of us will look back on our experiences with music with only fond memories of a time when it meant something to us to be musicians. But I will cart my geriatric collection with me wherever I go in the world just to jog the memories of some, and inspire the dreams of others.

There’s magic in them noise makers….

Categories: Art, Life
  1. October 24, 2008 at 12:35 am

    This year I was invited (okay, coerced) into playing that dreadful instrument ;-), the clarinet, in our community band for a July 4th parade and concert. I was transported back to my youth… all sorts of memories came flooding back, along with the ability to read music and remembering how to play. I hadn’t touched that 33 year old instrument in over 20 years. My daughter was enthralled. It’s not a very pretty instrument anymore, but she thought it was beautiful. She is already making plans for all the instruments she wants to play, and I’m so happy to give her the gift of music.

  2. CherylZ
    October 28, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    I am grateful to say that music is still a part of my life (I’m a singer, as efenz knows) and the lives of my children and husband. Music is the universal language and if you can make music, any kind of music, you give a gift to the listener. My son is a classical organist at a time when that profession is waning. His love for music must be genetic and I am thankful for it. “If music be the food of love, play on”.

  3. July 26, 2011 at 12:04 am

    My flute is still around… it needs new pads, but I still break it out once in awhile….
    It even was played by my daughter.. (she was then asked to play the piccolo)… and I have played it (in the past) for a couple weddings… I oftentimes think of all the times we used to play in marching band on the common and at school… I even remember one time passing out in formation..(i locked my knees)…LOL
    oh the memories…..

  4. July 26, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Love it =)

  5. July 26, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Also, I played the trumpet and then went on to the baritone…as well as a mellophone for marching band. Sure, my mom coerced me into playing in high school, but I had a pretty good time!

  6. Kurt
    July 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Great Story Ellen!!

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