My Budding Musician
There is something to be said about cultivating your child's love of sports, art, music, chess - you name it, if they have an interest, I'm all for supporting them. Take my son for instance. When he was a toddler, I could instantly tell he had a love of music. On his first birthday, he whacked his sister in the head with a drumstick when we had a children's entertainer whip out musical instruments during the festivities. The following summer, when we were on a cruise, he danced and sang and had the best rhythm I've ever seen for a two year old.
By age 7, he decided he wanted to learn how to play guitar and we proceeded to buy him a six string and convinced him to start taking lessons. When we changed music teachers a year later, he begged us to buy him an electric guitar and he and Jim (his music teacher) began jamming to Bon Jovi tunes in our basement. So far, the guitar playing really isn't so bad. In fact, I can even recognize the chords to some really great rock songs. He practices a little bit each day and since he's downstairs, it doesn't really disturb any of our TV shows or book reading time. But all that changed when he decided to take up the saxophone.
No matter how you slice it, a saxophone is just not a pretty sounding instrument. It's loud, it's annoying and when you're first learning how to play it, let's just say, it's not one of my favorite sounding instruments. But I guess I really shouldn't complain. When I was my son's age, I decided that I wanted to play the trumpet. While all the girls were trying out for flute or clarinet, yours truly had to buck the system and go for a brass intstrument. In fact, I had even tried out for the French Horn but when I pursed my lips together and tried to breathe life into that thing, nothing but air came out on the other side. And so, I tried my hardest and became a trumpet player.
Back then, my parents didn't mind if i never practiced - especially since the sound of someone playing the trumpet real poorly is way worse than tooting out a few clunkers on a saxophone. I still remember when my grandparents had come to visit when one of their relatives had passed away and they stayed by our house after they attended the funeral. When I went down to my room to practice, my grandmother, who was hard of hearing, looked at my mom and in her thick European accent said, "Tell Beth that we can't listen to any music. We're sitting Shiva." Translation: That music is so bad that I'd rather tell her I can't listen to another note rather than suffer through another bad rendition of Yankee Doodle Dandy.
After about six years of playing the trumpet, I became so proficient at it that I was even recruited by the marching band at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Despite the fact that my dad was gung ho about me suiting up and joining the band, I promptly declined - thus ending my trumpet career in an instant. Am I sad that I don't know how to play anymore? Not really. While I had played the trumpet for more than six years, by the time I finished high school, I was tapped out.
As for my son, I'm happy to indulge his musical curiousities. It's not like I think he's destined for "X Factor" or 'American Idol" for that matter - I just want to ensure that throughout his life, he gets to experience the arts. Could he be well on his way to becoming Kenny G or a guitar strumming rock star with groupies on the side? I highly doubt it - and frankly, I don't mind. As long as he's happy practicing songs that sound semi recognizable, then I'm pretty pleased. As a former trumpet player, I know what it's like to give up something you've done for years. Do I regret not playing anymore? Not really. I guess in hindsight, it would have been great to learn piano or flute. It's not like you can whip out a trumpet during a cocktail party and start playing showtunes. My son on the other hand should be a huge hit at parties - because I don't know about you, but everyone I know loves a great guitar player.