From Your Students You’ll Be Taught…

I’ve always believed that I learn a great deal from my students, and this morning was one of those reminders.

An adult piano student and I were discussing nervousness when playing in front of others, as well as finding a goal to measure success.  I explained that I was teaching my self tocb133eb2-1760-4a1e-898c-8d053fe982b7 play the clarinet.  Last September, a long-time friend, who was a professional clarinetist, and an outstanding clarinet teacher, died.  A few weeks ago, her family gave me my friend’s clarinet and alto saxophone.  I was deeply honored, and decided that it was time to learn to play the clarinet.  In college, I could not master “the break” (clarinetists will understand this agonizing feat that will make a bishop swear), and failed miserably on that instrument.  Plus, saxophone, flute, oboe and recorder fingerings are all very similar, and sensible; the clarinet, however, has some of the most confusing, and aggravating finger-compositions.

mrHollandsOpusgertrudeThis morning I explained to my student that getting over “the break” on the clarinet was still frustrating to me, even while playing from a student’s old beginning clarinet book.  My piano student mentioned young “Gertrude” in the movie, MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS, and how frustrated the fictional student was with her clarinet.  Gertrude was prepared to quit band when Mr. Holland redirected her attitude about the instrument, and what making music is all about. Richard Dreyfus taught Gertrude this beautiful piece, and neither my student nor I could remember the name of the clarinet solo.

My student left, and I pulled out the clarinet.  I was determined to begin the mastery of “the break.”  I played through the standards in the beginning clarinet book, and went on to search for the piece heard in the movie.  It happened to be Acker Bilk’s, “Stranger On The Shore.”  He’d originally written it for his daughter, Jenny, but later used it as the theme song for the television program.  I discovered the notes were some I had already mastered, but it contained two upper C’s and a B… right at “the break.”

I prepped my mind, filling it with confidence and determination.  Within an hour, “the break” was becoming easier and easier.  This is the result:

I feel a little jubilant at the moment.  And, I should.  I always worry about becoming stale, or fixed into ruts.  Moments like these encourage me to never rest from learning something new – even the clarinet with the hideous “break.”  I hope, forty years from now, when I am approaching 90, I will still have this appetite to continually learn.

Here is a recording of Acker Bilk’s, “Stranger On The Shore.”


About Wright Flyer Guy

Darin is a single adoptive father, a teacher, playwright, and musical theatre director from Kettering, Ohio.
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