Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ever wondered what it's like to be in band?

You arrive early to get a good music stand. About half of them are wonderful, while the other half are welded masses of steel that weigh more than the average flute player. As musicians filter into the room the noise of instruments warming up grows to a mind numbing volume. Why do the trumpets have to be right behind you?!? They warm up as loud as they can directly into your ear, as if they were welcoming the King of England himself. The clock strikes 7:00 and the director steps onto the podium. The noise quickly fades into silence.

He points at the tubas who play a tuning note. First the trombones begin to tune, followed by the horns and trumpets. Then come the tenor saxes... the alto saxes... the clarinets... the flutes... and finally the piccolos. After a few adjustments the director silences us again. We pull out some pieces by Bach to warm up as a group. The director raises his baton and we all bring the instruments to our mouths. We take a deep breath as he raises his arms, gathering as much air in our bodies as we can manage. As his arms begin to drop the monstrous sound of the band echoes throughout the room. As you play your instrument it seems as if the wonderful mixture of notes is coming from within you. Each note blends with the musical lines of the different sections. The director begins waving his arms feverishly, urging the band to inject emotion into the piece. As the song nears the end his motions begin to retract which tells us to play softer. His baton slows down for the final few notes before settling upon the beautiful chord that ends the piece.

Then the waiting starts...

We bring out the actual piece that we will be performing someday and the director asks for the trombones to play a particular part. For five minutes we wait as the trombone section works itself out. Then the trumpets are added, but they are WAY too loud so we spend another five minutes getting the balance right. Finally your section gets the nod and you play for a minute or two, only to find yourself waiting for another ten minutes. Your mind pleads with the director to just let you play the damned piece. After about an hour of this he promises to let you play all the way through. After a few more false starts, he relents and you get to play! You watch as the director's emotion shifts radically during the piece. A wrong note pierces the song and he noticeably winces. We make it to the end of the piece and he tells you that it was better, but there is much more work to be done.

You pack up your instrument and head home... happy that you were able to play but wishing that you had been able to play more.


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