First came the piano. (Triumph, then rebellion.) Next, the drums.
(Noise.) Next, the guitar. (Silence.) The recorder. (Unqualified,
grin-and-bear-it success.) The clarinet. (A work in progress.) And now:
Damned the torpedoes, Erin and Matt are going to learn to play a musical instrument.
Five years ago, my parents--perhaps guilt-ridden that they didn't do anything to develop my hidden musical talents--gave us a used piano for Christmas. Knowing nothing about pianos, I chose one whose distressed blonde wood fits in nicely with our Mexican decor.
Much to her mother's delight, Erin took to the piano like a dog to a sock. For about two years. Then she decided she would rather eat broccoli than practice. Lucky thing the piano fits in nicely with our Mexican decor.
Thankfully, the music program at Erin's elementary school had not yet been chopped in half (grrrr) and she learned the recorder in fourth grade. So far, that $6 recorder by far has been our least expensive and longest lived endeavor into musical awareness. Name a song, any song. Erin instantly can toot it by ear--like one of those underrated bar pianists who takes requests from sloshed patrons.
The music teacher selected Erin and a few other kids for the “recorder band.” Did you know that recorders sound almost pretty in concert? Hard to believe, if you've ever had a child walk around the house blowing “Happy Birthday” on the plastic flute.
Meanwhile, Matt got old enough to pursue his own standing as a child prodigy. In kindergarten, he viewed himself as a future rock star, so we indoctrinated him with a drum set purchased at Target. Within a week, one of his buddies accidentally had slashed the biggest drum with a snorkel. Duct tape can only do so much. After the floor pedal fell off, it was a slippery slope from educational toy to piece of junk.
Soon afterward, my sister shipped Matt a guitar that her daughter had outgrown. For Matt, its arrival was more exciting than a trip to Disneyland. But the guitar was a little too big for Matt, so we postponed lessons for a year or two. Or three, or four...
Erin's pushy parents pushed her into the middle school band, meaning we all have to wake up an hour earlier for the “zero period” elective. Fortunately, Erin's friend Emma got drafted, as well. Emma, likewise a master of the recorder, and Erin both decided on the recorder-esque clarinet.
E & E are the proud owners of the band's only clarinets made by First Act, a company best known for those $6 recorders. Emma's parents, esteemed members of Costco, secured them at a reasonable price. The band teacher has questioned the quality of these instruments, but based on the probability that Erin will have moved on to the accordion by summer, we're committed.
Back to Matt's parallel life. A couple of months ago, Matt, who tends to fixate, suddenly became fascinated with the violin: “Violin, violin, violin. I'm desperate to play the violin!” This obsession had something to do with a classmate named Parker demonstrating his violin to other third graders.
When its thumb rest fell off, we took the clarinet to an instrument store for first aid. While the repair guy smirked about the cheesy construction of our clarinet, Matt sampled a violin. Pure ecstasy. The shop owner produced a slightly used violin that he'd sell us for only $100. And it's not even a First Act.
Talk about impulse buy. Now comes the real expense--lessons.
At this moment in his evolution, Matt is the happiest boy on Earth. He'd, uh, “play” his violin in his sleep, if he could. His friends don't get the attraction. (You can't shove it into a PlayStation.) His parents think this means he's the next Itzhak Perlman.
On with the parade.