Music and Me

By , Oak Park, IL
All my life I have been interested in music. I was listening to my parents’ jazz mixes during the holidays and my dad was always playing the piano whenever he got the chance. We’re about to leave for a movie or something and I run and get my shoes on so he thinks that’s a good time to rum through a song. My family was very musical, my mom came from a long line of string players and was a cellist in college. My dad’s mom was an organist at her church and her eight kid family was full of singers and instrumentalists. I was very interested in jazz though. My parents thought I was going to be a Saxophone player. I liked that idea because that was a cool instrument in a jazz band. It was smallish, very shiny and it had that smooth sound to it. They also liked it because they said it was an easy instrument to play. But it wasn’t quite right. I didn’t feel like a Saxophonist.

So I was going to be a Saxophonist and now all I had to do was choose the sax at music night, the night when all the kids go to the middle school to pick their instrument. I went with my family (Mom, Dad and my little brother who would have been about four) to Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School. It was very big compared to Hatch Elementary. I could tell then that this was not the kind of school where you could know everyone. All the other fourth grade families seemed just as scared as I was, but all of them were just as excited to know what instrument their kid would choose, as my parents were. There were lots of different halls with all kinds of instruments in them. A person stood next to each to give a little demo and let each kid play a bit. Everyone was given three red tickets to give to the demonstrators. Every kid was only allowed to try out three instruments. It’s a pretty dumb system but I guess they need to get everyone in and out of there so they can get on with their lives. My family walked around looking at all the instruments, reminding me that it was my choice and I could pick anything. We got there and there were a million people all wanting to see their kid play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on the violin and say “That’s my kid!” to the guy next to him. I thought to myself, I can’t be in a jazz band if I pick the violin! Then I saw the string bass--it was perfect! I could play a string instrument like my mom and be in the jazz band! So I walked over to the lady who was the demonstrator. I didn’t know it then but that next year she would teach me how to play that thing. I gave the lady (whose name I would learn was Miss Shannon) my ticket and she said something like “Hi, I’m Miss Shannon and I would love to have you play the bass because there are not very many bassists in the world.” She must have said that to everyone because the bassists are pretty competitive at the High School. Then she told me to stand behind the bass and she walked me through some nursery rhyme and said “There you go!” After my encounter nothing could stop me from playing the bass. My parents told me to try some more instruments but I had already seen my destiny. The bass is, I think, a more personal instrument because it is like someone standing next to you and not a tool, like a violin. As I would learn, band and orchestra are two very different environments. Band and band directors are more aggressive and robotic than orchestra conductors, not a lot but enough that I could tell I was an orchestra person.

The first day of school seemed usual, nothing had really changed. I was sitting in the class room full of kids, the teacher was writing a schedule for the day on the board and everyone was happy to see their friends after the summer. Class went as usual: math, LA, science and then the door opened mid-sentence and there was that lady from the music thing. I give a quick glance and then looked back at my paper, pretending I didn’t know who she is or why she was there. I don’t know why I did that, I wasn’t embarrassed about music, almost everyone else in the room was involved somehow. She gave a little knock on the door even though she was already in the room, that kind of knock that says “Shut up, I have something more important to say.” She read some names off a list “John Boyle, Cody Evans, Hannah Gardner, Michelle Glazer, Gabriella…”. We all got up and followed her down the hall to the music room. She ran through the list of names just to make sure no one died or was abducted during the one minute we were in the hallway. I looked around the room and of course there was no bass that was fit for a fourth grader to play, only the huge full size ones that for many adults are too big.
In all school music programs there is never anything that isn’t broken, and the one time you get an instrument that’s fine you don’t have to play that day. That day was one of the days when everything was fine but it was the first day so guess what--you don’t play. The room was more of a closet for the instruments than a classroom: shelves all around the wall stacked with broken things the school couldn’t pay for and spare parts and music. This year I could tell would be new and fun and full of adventure! Yay!

Over time I grew to accept band directors and the fact that I would need to work with them if I was to be in a jazz band. Also, as I moved up to high school level groups, they became more fun because they were usually made up of more serious players who let us get more done in the time we had. I am now in the Jazz Ensemble and it was lots of work to get in.

Freshman year I auditioned for something jazz related but they never tell freshman anything so I didn’t get in. just last year I auditioned for the lower jazz band and made it in and rejoiced. That got my name on the list of kids who were interested in jazz. This year I worked with my private teacher on all the things I needed to know how to do. Comping to a blues progression was the big thing to do. There is no written music and you have only the chords to guide you. The audition was at the end of sophomore year and I didn’t officially make it in but it said TBA so I still had a chance. I was freaking out because I might not hear from the director again until school started in the fall. I emailed the director to find out what was up and he said that he would like to hear me audition again in the fall. That meant that I would need to keep practicing throughout the summer. I worked long and hard through the summer to prepare for the second audition and eventually made it! HOORAY!!!!!!!! Jazz is lots of fun and I’m playing more well known music than the other lower band!





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