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I only remember my history when it's intertwined with the music I love. As I piece together my instrument and play that first note, I think back to my first memory: the first time I heard my father play clarinet.
I am two years old and know nothing about how I got here, my parents, or why I'm such a bad thing. I only know happiness. I sit in my small cradle in the tiny room. There are two beds, two closets, and two desks. My father sits on one bed, carefully assembling his clarinet, making sure his reed is perfect. My mother watches with love wide in her brown eyes. At long last he plays his first note. It fills the tiny room with a sound so big and beautiful, more beautiful than anything I knew. He plays a song, something I will someday come to know as Le Regiment De Sambre Et Meuse. My mother looks at him and says "You're really playing Le Reg?"
"For old time's sake. And who knows, maybe little Amy here will someday become a master clarinetist like us.
My father had nothing to worry about. I was enchanted with the sound from the start.
I finish assembling the clarinet and play my first note, a G. The first note I learned, it is always the first one I play.
It is a Friday night. I am now 5 years old. My parents now live in an apartment, much nicer living conditions. We have nothing to do, so my father brings out his clarinet. All of a sudden, he gets a spark in his eye. "Amy, how would you like to start learning clarinet?"
"Can I Daddy????"
"Of course. Come here."
My father assembles the instrument and puts in the reed, showing me how to do it all the while. His hands guide mine into the proper position to hold the clarinet. At long last, he begins showing me how to make a sound. After a long laborious effort, I finally produce a sound. His hands carefully show mine how to produce a note. G. He then teaches me more notes, and finally a simple melody that I will someday come to recognize as Pomp and Circumstance, alternately called torture. My mother looks amazed as I get so much joy from this melody. My father looks at me and says "You're well on your way to becoming the best Amy Jane."
He didn't need to tell me. Right then I knew I was going to be the best clarinet player I could be.
As I begin my warmups, a sense of calm washes over me. I forget that any time I go a while without playing. Doing this makes me feel like there's not a care in the world.
I am seven now. We still live in the same apartment. My parents fight a lot. My father accuses my mother of trapping him to stay around for college by getting pregnant at 18. My mother says it was just as much his fault. The fighting often evolves into a screaming match as they both try to prove the other one wrong. It's at times like these I lock myself in my room and practice. Soon my beginners book becomes far too easy for me. I begin to find sheet music slightly out of my reach online. I play harder and harder songs, forcing myself to learn how to double tounge. Before long, I am a master. It's the inner peace I crave that I get from playing, the feeling of being able to drown out my parents from my fingers being numb and my jaw unable to move. My parents eventually split, unfortunately.
As my warmups become more complicated, I begin to attract stares from any lower level students also practicing in the area. I often amaze people with my skill.
I am 10. My mother still lives in an apartment, but one that's slightly bigger. My father on the other hand has done well in his engineering business and lives in a big house with his wife. I don't spend a lot of time with my father, just alternating weekends. When I do see him, our time is valuable. We spend it on various father-daughter adventures, watching Doctor Who, and occasionally playing clarinet duets. One day I am sitting in my room practicing. My father passes by, then stops in his tracks. "Ames...ist that the Mozart clarinet concerto?"
"But you've only been playing for 5 years. How can you play that so well already?"
"When you and Mom split, I sat in my room and played all the time. I got better and learned new music and techniques."
"I missed something so beautiful happening behind my back. Wow."
The semi-decent students begin complaining about the low quality of their instruments. They talk about how they can't advance on such a poor instrument.
I am 13 now. My clarinet, which is my father's decent one, is on its last legs. I can still produce a strong tone, but I can tell it will break soon. All I want is a new instrument. Christmas is coming, and I have been heavily hinting to my father about my need for a better instrument.
Christmas morning arrives. There is an oddly rectangular package under the tree from my father when I am over there. I open it to see the clarinet of my dreams. As I play Christmas carols for my family that day, I cannot help but think that I am so lucky to have such a unique bond through a unique passion that I share with my father.
The other students begin to talk about how their families hate it when they practice incessantly. I think about how lucky I am to have varying policies.
It's the present now. It is a Thursday night, and all I want to do is practice. My mother has a giant pile of work to do and wants nothing of it. "Amy if you don't stop playing I swear I'm gonna break that damn clarinet of yours. Damn your father for getting you started on that damn instrument."
I sigh and pack up my instrument, counting the hours until I go to my father's house.
Friday night comes, and I eagerly pack up my belongings and head over. I run in the house, knowing I will be greeted with open arms and love. My father, my stepmother and my stepbrother 3 year old Michael all greet me. After sliding around on the marble tile floors, my father and I begin to play duets, just as we have every Friday night. And when I look into his eyes, I'm 2 years old and entranced by his music, 5 years old and making my first note, 7 years old and forgetting the pain, 10 years old and impressing, 13 and receiving my first nice instrument, or now and sharing our musical bond.