Monday, July 24, 2006

Flourish for Wind Band

Fall, 1987.
My adolescent world had been smashed to bits -- not by a boy, but because the new band director, John Lynch, put me 2nd chair to my then-best friend, Jeannette. It wasn't supposed to be that way. We were in the freshman band, and I was supposed to be the concertmistress. My fragile ego could tolerate nothing less.

Adding insult to injury every day in rehearsal was the fact that one piece we were working on, Vaughn-Williams' Flourish for Wind Band, had two distinct first clarinet parts -- Solo Clarinet I and Ripieno Clarinet I. Ripieno? What the heck was Ripieno? I didn't want to know, and I sure as heck didn't want to be playing it if it was the opposite of Solo.

Flourish for Wind Band isn't a technically demanding piece (unless you ask my then-dear friend Amy, who played principal trumpet and threatened to shit her pants every time she had to go for the 1st-ledger-line A), but it is good, valid music. John Lynch was the master of that -- exposing us to music that challenged our ability level but wasn't the tripe that most high school bands out there play.

It's on the program for this weekend's concerts. I'm playing 2nd clarinet and I don't feel any significant attachment or anxiety about playing 1st (but I was feeling a little antsy about playing 1st on Pineapple Poll, and I got my wish literally seconds before the downbeat when our principal player realized he needed 2 on Solo to cover divided parts -- so I'm playing 1st and am very happy about it).

I've been feeling lately that my days as a clarinet player are getting numbered -- I am grossly unhappy in the band and feel that a change is imminent and I won't be playing anymore. On the surface, I know it is a good idea, but deep down, I'm not sure I'll ever let go 100% of having been a musician. Anyway, a few seconds into the introduction of Flourish for Wind Band this morning had me choking back tears and sobs as I remembered John Lynch and his inspiration, as well as the obsessive motivation I had in the fall of 1987 to be the very best.

Weeks after being seated behind Jeannette, before we ever played Flourish for Wind Band in concert, I won first chair in the high school all-county band, out-playing students in grades 9-12. Jeannette was selected to be an alternate, more than 20 spots behind me. I came out on top, but in doing so, I believe I began the process of alienating Jeannette. She was one of many friends I loved and lost in high school, probably because my intensity made people uncomfortable and my drive made me appear self-centered. I saw her during the summer of 1994, at an outdoor bar in Buffalo. She was visibly uncomfortable to have run into me, and I later heard that she reported negative impressions of me to the grapevine of our old circles.

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