ILA Period: 3
My Big Brass Instrument
It was the end of fifth grade; I couldn’t contain my excitement. The day had finally come when I would pick out my new instrument to play for band. When I was younger, I looked at band as a HUGE upgrade in comparison to chorus, which is what I had done until that point.
That fantastic Thursday night, after my mom came home from work, we headed to “Creative Music” to choose my new instrument. On the drive there, I was all set on getting a saxophone and thus making my grandfather happy and proud. I had spent a lot of vacations with my grandpa, a very big jazz enthusiast, and he would always tell me how much he loved the saxophone. This would be a great chance to shine in my grandpa’s eyes. As soon as we arrived at the store, I eagerly went to the front desk and asked to see a saxophone. The old man running the desk went to the back and brought out a beautiful golden instrument that gleaned in the light. But when I looked at my mom, her jaw had dropped.
“Mom can I please get it? I really want to play the saxophone.”
“Daniel are you crazy? There are too many buttons on it, you can’t play that!” my mother said exasperated. Though I was more than a little disappointed, her rejection was not yet to my despair: I had a backup instrument in my mind.
“Alright then mom, can I please play the trumpet?” I asked with renewed excitement.
“Daniel,” my mom said looking me up and down, “do you think you’re Louie Armstrong?”
“No?” I answered in a confused tone.
“Then you’re not playing it, it’s too complicated!” my Mom replied.
“Well, then I don’t know what to play,” I answered.
Suddenly, my mom’s eyes lit up when she saw something across the store on the wall.
“Look Daniel! Doesn’t that instrument look interesting? It’s called a trombone. And look, there are no buttons! Oh, it’s perfect for you!”
“I guess…” I said, feeling a little dejected. I walked out of the store following my mother and dragging a massive black case on my heels. I had now become an official trombonist. Well, this was bound to be… exciting.
I came to school the next day, proudly carrying my trombone in its nice, big and heavy case. I couldn’t wait for my first band class and I really didn’t think this feeling would ever change.
*Three years later*
It was the beginning of eighth grade. So far middle school had been quite interesting, with Covid messing up the entire experience. And, like with pretty much everything else in the world, our band class was one year behind since we hadn’t had any “real” practices in the band room since sixth grade.
One fall day, I was at my friend Patrick’s house for a hang-out, a fellow trombonist. Our friendship actually blossomed from our similar views regarding the playing of our instrument.
“Dude, I don’t know if I can do another year of this instrument! I literally suck!” I said.
“I know, we all kind of suck. Our band highlight was when we played “We Will Rock You” at the fifth grade district concert,” Patrick said agreeing with me.
“Oh, come on boys, it’s just one more year! Suck it up!” Patrick’s mom suggested.
“I think you’re right” Patrick and I both said.
“I just hope we get normal band experience again, not with all this mask stuff. I want a band class inside the classroom,” I said.
And even though around halfway through the year things turned more normal, with Covid slowly going away, it didn’t change my trombone playing skill level nor my desire to play it. Me, being the lazy fourteen year old that I was, would never practice trombone at home. The only time I would take out my trombone at home is if Mr. Dolecki would assign an online playing quiz. And that only happened in the lucky event that I didn’t forget my big, heavy trombone at school! Or, for that matter, forget it at home when I was supposed to bring it to school.
Every day when I would walk into that band room, I would see happiness leave my teacher’s eyes. It wasn’t his fault that almost the entire band class was a year behind in skill. But, man, I felt really bad for him. I would be sitting in the back of the class, looking up at the smart board and just counting down the days, like a prisoner counts the days until his liberation. I felt this exact way: a prisoner, but with the added weight of a big brass instrument. I couldn’t take it anymore! Maybe if I would have had a normal middle school experience I would have enjoyed band a little more, but now, I was just done.
As a final hurrah, to motivate us to play and hopefully practice more, Mr. Dolecki announced the Spring Concert day. This strategy really did work, as most kids started setting goals to improve their playing skills. Sadly, not for me! I was just as reluctant to practice at home and just as unhappy to play at school as ever before! After months of practicing, concert time finally arrived. Nicely dressed in respect of the Spring Concert, as I went to my chair and sat down in front of the audience, I realized that my band experience was almost over. My moment of liberation was almost there! I was expecting an incredible amount of joy to overflow me. Yet the reality was that I felt a mix of emotions, some of happiness and some of confusion and sadness of time flying by. Once we finished playing our mediocre music and started packing up our large instruments, I gave my dented trombone a last little pat and wiped the spit off my pants from my broken spit valve. I looked at Patrick and our eyes locked in excitement: a chapter of our lives was complete, and many more were to come.
I couldn’t wait to return my big, brass instrument to the store. I just hoped they wouldn’t charge me for the damages. I’d charge them right back.