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Whispers of what was and might have been

Years ago, actually decades ago--strange as that word feels when talking about my own life--I walked away from something. After living it day in, day out, from the time I was nine and picked up my first Tonette, or perhaps from the time at 4 when my parents bought me my first little wood and plastic piano, after hundreds of hard-to-come-by dollars spent on instruments, and lessons, and gasoline for the car, and gowns, tuition, and airline tickets, after competition medals, and programs lovingly put in a scrapbook, after panels, and juries, and auditions, I walked away from the life I thought I would live.

Nothing really drove me away. Whenever I'd audition (with one exception, which is a pretty good record) even if I didn't get the part I wanted, I'd get a part. Even if my voice was in flux (was I a mezzo, a spinto, a lyric, a dramatic?--the teachers couldn't decide, but they wanted me to keep singing, so it would settle "and then...!"), I'd get cast, or be given a solo. I kept getting requests to pick up my clarinet, or oboe, and play with some group. So there were no big disappointments, no "Ah ha!" moments that said "you don't have what it takes." No Simon to puncture my ego, no humiliating reviews I couldn't deal with. There just came a time when doing what needed to be the next step was something I couldn't do. I said it was because my parents were ill, and I needed to be close to them. Maybe that was why, maybe not. Whatever the impulse, reason, cause, excuse, the truth is that one day I calmly, sadly, irrevocably closed the door on that life and walked away. Whatever small echoes of it that enter my life now are like a child's version of a great novel. Bare outlines, in simple colors--beloved, but...neither as rich, nor satisfying as the original.

Still, every once in a while something happens and it is as though I am back in that life I left. A different kind of door opens, and I am invited to be "in" that world. Suddenly I can smell the dusty curtains on the stage, and feel myself surrounded by the people--vain, talented, bitchy, kind, laughing, cursing. I hear a violin bow twiddle on the strings, and a music stand scrape across the floor. I hear the conversations about "new music" versus "classics," that turn into arguments. I hear someone make a nasty crack about tenors, and hear a tuba player laugh. I feel the heat of the lights as the crew plays with them as we turn our scores to the right measure. And I am home.

This morning, on the way to work was one of those moments, I was invited in. We all were.

Listen. It is beauty. Don't you wish you were there?



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
When I was a child, music lessons were out of the question. We had enough to eat and a safe place to live, but nothing extra. I was about 40 when my mother's piano (acquired when she was an older adult) came to me, and of course the priority was lessons for my two daughters.

Finally, about 4 years ago, with both girls grown and on their own, me no longer working a day job, it was my turn. I think the experience of studying music as an adult, even knowing I'll never achieve technical virtuosity, is amazing and wonderful. I get to say what music I'll learn, nobody tells me when and how to practice, I set my own goals. (And I'm old enough to decide whether I want to deal with performance anxiety enough to play in public or just play for my own delight.) I have the life experience to go deeply into the emotional landscape of the music in ways my children couldn't (yet).

My husband played clarinet in high school and college, and returned to it a couple of years ago. He found a local symphonic band of kindred spirits to play with. They give concerts and raise money for the high school music programs. I think he gets much of the same pleasure and satisfaction of performing with a group as he did when in band and orchestra.
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
I listen to NPR on the way to and from work and caught the linked story today, he should do a splendid job.
I have almost no musical ability, it is one of the few things I truly envy in others.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )