Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dang, I was good!

Warning: This post got really long but I'm too lazy to edit. Read at your own risk of boredom.

Dang, I was good! Was being the operative word. I was once an All-State euphonium player, at age 16, my junior year in high school. I placed 11th out of 12, but I was ecstatic to be there! And I got the huge patch for my letter jacket and was selected to be a drum major the next year, so it was truly the highlight of my young life. I will admit it, I was hot stuff. Band chicks dug me. I had pretty girlfriends (including my future bride) and many great friends.

(Coincidentally, Bubba's godfather made State the next year. We didn't know each other because we lived 400 miles apart. We met in marching band at UNT our freshman year, but didn't keep in touch after I dropped out. Then three years later, our wives became friends and we got together for dinner and went, "DUDE, I know you!" Small world. He is a successful band director today, and I am a repressed band nerd, working for The Man.)

Anyway, a few years ago, MommaLlama and I decided that we should do something musical. We hadn't played in years, but she owned several thousand dollars worth of flute, piccolo, and custom head joint. It was either play again, or sell and buy a new car... of course we had to play! I didn't own an instrument (a good euphonium can cost many thousands of dollars), but I also knew how to play trombone, which can be much more affordable if you only need an intermediate level instrument (well under $1,000). Trombone and euphonium use the same size mouthpiece and play in the same key and sit next to each other in band, so I had learned the slide positions throughout middle- and high-school, so I felt that I could pull it off even though I hadn't played much before.

So, to continue the story, we found a band to join, but after we started our family, and I was traveling often for work, I couldn't commit to regular band attendance, so for a little over a year, there was no music other than singing in the car and shower. Very depressing times.

Fortunately, we have recently contracted the services of some very reliable and conscientious young babysitters and I have been able to rejoin the band. And, apparently some of my 17-year-old swagger is still around. I dusted off a copy of a solo that I played my senior year in high school called "The Blue Bells of Scotland". It is probably the most difficult piece that I've ever played. I absolutely killed it. My range was five and a half octaves without breaking a sweat. I got a first division ranking at the State Solo & Ensemble contest.

Naturally, I was eager to play it again. Perhaps I could get it up to snuff and ask our director to let me play it at a concert in the not too distant future. I've hacked away a couple of times, and I have learned a couple of things:

1) I am severely out of shape with regard to my stamina in the upper octaves.
2) While I was incredibly fast on euphonium, which uses valves (i.e. "buttons"), moving one's arm quickly and accurately to play such a piece on trombone is really really difficult!

Still, I was feeling confident. That is, until tonight. I downloaded a recording of the solo from iTunes. The professional trombonist Joseph Alessi is just awesome. And I am really not. I probably won't give up. I want to play it again, someday. And we play before some very forgiving audiences (retirement homes, churches, civic functions). If I could play it cleanly at half the speed of Mr. Alessi, it would be quite an accomplishment. But, right now I am feeling pretty sober. We'll see if I am able to pull this off any time soon!


The Rhodes' said...

Let me know if you need some back up. The fact that you don't have a smoker's cough should be enough to impress any audience you all play for!

megrynders said...

I really need to get back into the good old band..those were good times! nothing like a chain smoking baritone player, gay flutist, cross dressing clarinet player and funny, sometimes grouchy director to keep the love of music going!!