Respect To The Clarinets

For the last few days, my parents have been in India. My dad had a business trip there, and my mother's mission was to prove how much she loved me by buying me multiple pairs of sparkly bejeweled shoes. I drew around my foot on a piece of paper before she left and then cut around it, so that she'd be able to place my stand-in "foot" inside each pair of shoes to see if they were going to fit properly. This would have been a great plan if the guy who was trying to sell them to her didn't keep folding my paper foot into thirds and shoving it into the shoes for 9-year-olds, saying "see! look! it's fine! it fits!"

(Aside Number One: My parents were staying at the same hotel in Mumbai as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and they missed them by 15 minutes when they went out for a walk. Their friend, however, actually SAW BRAD PITT GETTING OUT OF THE ELEVATOR. Obviously, I am going to spin this story the best I can until the version I tell is that I saw Brad Pitt getting out of the elevator in the hotel in Mumbai. And then we totally made out.)

But because my parents were out of town last week, they weren't able to go and see my brother Luke performing in his school concert a few days ago. Sean and I don't get out much, so we were overjoyed to take their place. And while I know it might seem like all I do out here is go and support my siblings in their extra-curricular activities, I'd like you to know that I am devoting a large portion of my time to other things too. Like Oprah. Oh, and work; I've managed to get some of that, although I'm realizing that now I'll probably never be able to go back to working in a place where I can't wear my sweatpants to the office, and also where the office isn't actually an office but a sofa on the deck by the pool. To think of all those years I wasted at a desk, wearing pointy shoes and sharp shirts, when apparently my creativity is at its peak when I'm sitting cross-legged outside, sporting half my lunch down the front of my ratty old tank top.

(Aside Number Two: I was talking on the phone with my other brother, Tom, this morning, and I happened to mention that Sean and I had spent yesterday afternoon working at the Coffee Bean. What I meant was that we'd walked to the Coffee Bean, plugged in our laptops, and tapped away like dorks for three hours. Tom, however, thought I meant that we'd worked at the Coffee Bean in a "caramel nonfat latte? Coming right up!" kind of way. Like suddenly Sean and I had decided to be baristas. Together. For one afternoon.)

Anyway, I don't know about you, but when we had school concerts back in the day, they invariably took place in the cafeteria. Luke's music department is apparently too high-falutin' for this, though, and so we went to see him play at the Esplanade, which, on this tiny island, is the equivalent of Carnegie Hall.

And the one thing I learned is that if you're going to be conducting an orchestra, you can't have jiggly upper arms. Seriously, you just can't, because you're standing up there with your back to three hundred people, and you're conducing your little heart out, and when you conduct, you move your arms vigorously, and we all know that when you move your arms vigorously, guess what? They jiggle. And then people are so mesmerized by the jiggling that they can't concentrate on the music, because come on, let's face it, IT COULD BE ANY OF US UP THERE. So if you're a conductor and you haven't thought about this before, let me suggest long sleeves. Also maybe bowing a little less ostentatiously after the performance but, you know, whatever, I guess that's by the by.

So do you weep when orchestras play music? I weep when orchestras play music. I wept through this ENTIRE concert in fact, from beginning to end, from the tiny kids in the choir singing La Bamba to the finale, where a hundred people sang Verdi's Chorus Of The Hebrew Slave. I cried when my brother was playing. I cried when he wasn't. Sean kept turning to me and saying "seriously? are you still weeping? seriously? you don't even know most of these kids!" but honestly, I just couldn't help it.

That's my problem, you see. I weep when people do things in unison. It's a strange habit, I know, but when thirty people pick up their violin bows at once, I well up like someone's just told me my cat got run over. I start to think things like "I wonder if it's too late for me to take up the timpani!" and "hmm, how many laws would I be breaking if I admitted to a small crush on that 16-year-old trumpet soloist?" (Seriously, how many do you think? Like, enough to get arrested?)

The best part however---apart from the seventh-grade choir singing "her name was Lola! She was a showgirl!" (you'll have that in your head all day now, you're welcome)---was the unabashed glee I got from watching other people play the clarinet. Do you have any idea how dorky you look when you play the clarinet? Do you? No, come on, do you?


clarinet geek

(Seriously, how did I get a boyfriend? Moreover, how am I keeping him?)

By the way, in case you were wondering, my brother Luke played the trombone in the concert, and also the euphonium. Yup, the euphonium, which might just be the second geekiest instrument in the world. He, however, got to play his geeky instrument while looking tall and handsome and wearing a tuxedo. Which, unfortunately, was a luxury never afforded to me.

Nov 16, 2006

Well, that girl wasn't dating Sean -- this girl is! Wait, not THIS girl, as in me, but as in you... Holly. As of now. Currently.

And that Lola song always makes my friend's cat scratch me. She attacks when I sing it. I have no idea why.

Nothing But Bonfires
Nov 16, 2006

If THAT girl had been dating Sean, we would have had to have called the police. Considering she was eight.

(Also, the fashion police. Obviously.)

Heather B.
Nov 16, 2006

I played the clarinet from 4th grade until my senior year of HS. I was also 1st chair and then decided to take up the bassoon and bass clarinet. I'm cringing.

I also bled dorkiness.

Oh and I too weep when watching an orchestra.

And finally, one of my conductors was a female with very jiggly arms. It was quite awful and I thought that one day I would get smacked in the head with one. Not because her arms were too jiggly, but because she was moving so quickly and I was so little. It was very scary.

Nov 16, 2006

I'm both overjoyed and saddened to admit that I've never, ever played an instrument other than the recorder, which was obligatory because EVERYONE IN MY SCHOOL WAS REQUIRED TO PLAY IT. And it wasn't so much like I was playing it as I was pretending to play it so that I wouldn't make everyone else sound bad.

I really wish that picture was LARGER, because I'd like to inspect your glasses. And collared shirt. And front-pleated jeans. At least, that's the type of jean I imagine them to be.

Nov 16, 2006

My friend B - who also reads your site - will be overjoyed to see this post, as she is a conductor herself and probably figuring they just don't get the play they should.

And also, it will probably make her incredibly neurotic about her upper arms.

Nov 16, 2006

Oh, noooo - I meant play, like they don't get written about much in blogs, not play, as in PLAYplay.

Oh god.

Nov 16, 2006

I played the alto clarinet in middle school and then switched to bass clarinet in high school, partially because the music was easier. But MAINLY because I had a huge crush on the guy who played bass clarinet and I wanted to sit next to him! And that right there is a whole other level of dorkiness--when you have a CRUSH on a CLARINET-PLAYING high school boy!!!

Nov 16, 2006

I played the flute, then the bassoon (less competition for the solos).

With some timpani, marimba, cymbals, and castinets on the side.

(The sidelines. I was in concert band AND marching band. Feeling better about yourself yet?)

Also, the duck call.

Nov 16, 2006

i have a picture of myself at that age playing my instrument.

it's mind boggling.

i just didn't want you to feel alone in your instrumented, crazed-fashion world. and the glasses, my god, the glasses!

Daily Tragedies
Nov 16, 2006

Oh my. I'm sure similar pictures exist of me and my beloved clarinet. Which I believe is still in my parents' basement because I cannot bear the thought of getting rid of it, despite the fact that it's 2000 miles away and I haven't played it in a decade.


And yes, I'm a sucker for doing-things-in-unison, too. Taking me to the orchestra, watching team sports, etc? Expect to see me batting my eyelashes furiously in a futile effort to hold back the tears.

Thespian Libby
Nov 16, 2006

There are photographs of moi, in ginormous glasses, playing a clarinet....which I played not only in Jr. High and High School but even in college.......I keep telling myself that "late bloomers" age better than those who peaked in 9th grade.

Nov 16, 2006

I just choked on my Galaxy Granola. Is that really you? Seriously? Was that before or after you made out with Brad?

Isn't working from "home" completely wonderful? When you live here, we can go and work in each other's apartments, wearing sock monkey slippers and sweatpants.

Nov 16, 2006

well, i don't cry at orchestras, but i certainly had tears in my eyes from laughing at that picture. it reminded me of one my parents have of me in the early 80s, sitting ramrod straight on the piano bench, practicing in earnest to perfect my rendition of "hot cross buns" or some such song.

Nov 16, 2006

bagpipes do this to me, although my father was emphatic that our blood was unsullied by Scotland.

the unison thing also gets my heart in my throat. on election day here, I felt so euphoric, even before I knew the dems had won--just that so many of us were focused on the same activity on the very same day. it must be a biological flocking sort of reflex, like starlings all taking to the air at once.

Nov 16, 2006

"To think of all those years I wasted at a desk, wearing pointy shoes and sharp shirts, when apparently my creativity is at its peak when I’m sitting cross-legged outside, sporting half my lunch down the front of my ratty old tank top."

I think that's my new mantra.

Sarah Marie
Nov 16, 2006

Great picture--pinkies out!

I always tear up when I see concerts or any cultural activity that unifies people. I believe Durkheim would say that the emotions you feel when you are part of people doing things in unison directly taps into our human collective consciousness...that part of human nature which he theorized holds society together. Which completely explains your desire to take up the timpani. It does not, however, explain your crush on the underage trumpet player. Might have to go to Freud to get answers there!

I wasn't a band geek, but I'm definitely a geek!

Nov 16, 2006

Is that Sarah Marie from Bama? Be still my geeky anthropological heart! Holly, to the picture all I have to say is (best read in syrupy southuhn drawul) Oh My Word! My friend's mother-in-law would call those the "cocoon" years... when we're not as cute as a little caterpillar and we have yet to develop into our glorious butterfly selves.

Nov 16, 2006

Have I mentioned that when I see that you have updated my heart skips a beat and I pee just a little in anticipation?

Because I totally do.

Nov 17, 2006

THANK YOU. I thought I was the only one who cries at silly junior high school plays where I only know one cast member. It's like I'm so proud of them for their accomplishment, and the emotional gates just burst open.

Also, the photo is all kinds of awesome.

Nov 17, 2006

OK, this post made me weep with laughter for myriad reasons. Here are just a couple:

#1: I am a conductor (as JB already mentioned--she neglected to mention, however, that we are both also oboists, which is another EXTREMELY geeky instrument, until one learns to play it properly...). As a conductor, I have ALWAYS been aware of the risk of UADD (Under Arm Dingle-Dangle), and I work my upward and downward dogs as hard as I possibly can in yoga class. Not to correct my alignment or find a place of higher spiritual existence, mind you, but to make sure that I NEVER have to wear long sleeves when I conduct. It gets really hot up there under those lights and the glaring eyes of several hundred audience members.

#2: I am a conductor of 3rd through 12th grade students. When I am not conducting, my job is to teach little kids how to play the violin. (Which is my primary instrument, and not, in the least, geeky. At least, I never thought so. I was called a preppy violinist a few times in high school, but never a geeky one.) So, I not only weep through concerts, but also during the occasional breakthrough moment in rehearsals and lessons. Seriously. It's overwhelming. This afternoon I was listening to one of my high school viola students perform a piece she was working on for an upcoming audition, and it took all my strength to hold back full-on bawling.

So there you go. My own personal blog on the plight of the school orchestra conductor. Thanks for giving us some play. :)

Nov 17, 2006

You know, it's not fair, people shouldn't be allowed to write this well AND have a great taste in shoes.

Nov 17, 2006

i have nothing witty to say.

i just love you.

and i thought you should know.

Nov 17, 2006

I\'ll have you know that I was playing a BARITONE HORN, an instrument almost entirely similar to the euphonium, except with a straight bell rather than a curved one. HAH! I bet you\'re the one feeling like a dork now!

Nothing But Bonfires
Nov 17, 2006

The program said "euphonium." Twice. I'm going with the program, EUPHONIUM PLAYER.

Nov 17, 2006

Dear Lord. We could be twins. I believe I had that exact same hair cut, and glasses, aannd I also played the clarinet. In fact, I may have an almost identical photo somewhere...
It was playing the theme song for Jurassic Park that pretty much marked the fall of my clarinet tooting career. You'd think I would have learned sooner, what with the decline in my social status once I started toting a clarinet case with me in school.

Nov 17, 2006

I'm going to have to disagree with B. I played the violin all through elementary school--looking rather like your picture above, Holly, with the uber-bangs--and it was definitely dorky. A good

Nov 17, 2006

That photo is like a snapshot out of my own past. Except I had much worse hair. I was a proud clarinet player from fifth grade through tenth, when I realized that yearbook staff was less of a contributor to social death than symphonic band. Worse, though, I CARED about the clarinet-playing. I practiced. I toted the little case around school. I made first chair.

I'm not sure how I ever found a husband, either, except I suspect that quitting the clarinet had something to do with it.

Live choral music makes me tear up. Epecially children's choirs. Basically, going to church is a very weepy experience for me, which is quite embarrassing. I feel you.

Nov 17, 2006

Oh Holly. That was me, too. I played the oboe AND the clarinet, and I was so earnest about it, too. Sad. SAD. (Like Lawyerish, I was first chair, and I busted my ASS for that first chair opportunity. And worse? I TOURED EUROPE with my sad little oboe and this major group, and it remains the only time I've been to Europe. WITH MY OBOE.)

Nov 17, 2006

Under Arm Dingle Dangle has to be the funniest phrase ever uttered by humankind. Just say it once...under arm dingle dangle. Ha!

Nov 17, 2006

I am sure that cute Sean has equally geeky pictures SOMEWHERE in his mother's photo collection. I believe that this should be your mission when you get back to the States.

Also, I played the baritone and the flute and went to band camp. As I type this, I wonder at my ability to overcome my geekdom in any way! And yes, I too was denied the opportunity to wear a tux while playing - I had to wear my school colours of black and gold. Long black polyester skirt with gold polyester jacked with our crest on it. SHUDDER!

Thank God high school was only 4 years long!

Nov 17, 2006

But what excellent finger position you had!

Nov 17, 2006

I have a few thoughts on this post which I feel compelled to share, since you seem to bring that out in people, Holly (oh... by the way... can we be best friends? Just askin').

Thought the First: If I were a conductor, not one person would watch my Under Arm Dingle Dangle. That's because they would be unable to peel their eyes away from my gigantic ASS.

Thought the Second: I could never be a conductor, because I, too, am a compulsive weeper. Anytime humanity comes together, I start sniveling. I'm a lot of fun to go to parades and such with.

Thought the Third: Euphonium would be a perfect name for a smallish, battery-operated device often found in nightstand drawers.

Nov 18, 2006

Re: Instruments in unison--picture this scenario (one I've experienced any number of times, given that my brother is pipe major in a bagpipe band):

Gravesite at the end of a funeral. You're either a) already all weeped out, or b) have not shed a tear as you came in support of a friend, and did not know the deceased. Or perhaps somewhere in between, but you get the picture.

4-5 bagpipers in a circle. One piper plays a verse of "Amazing Grace." Just as he finishes the verse, the other pipers kick in, and all 5 do a powerful second verse.

Then. Then. The first piper again does a verse alone, but leaves the circle and walks away into the distance, his figure getting smaller, the sound of the bagpipes sloooooowly receding.



Nov 19, 2006

I wish that my eight-year-old self could have met your eight-year-old self back in the day. I would have found it so comforting to have a friend as geeky as I. And I could have loaned you my favorite necklace, the one I made from a giant mother-of-pearl shell I found with a hole in it and strung on a large chain. That was not a well-constructed sentence.

I am glad other people cry at the people-doing-things-in-unison scenario. I have even teared up watching the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band practice. Though not, to my credit, when they're doing Phantom medleys.

Nov 19, 2006

Oh, and someday, when you're back in the States, I may show up at your door bearing a jello salad. With Cool Whip. And three layers of colored jello. And four kinds of tinned fruit. And some sort of meat-on-a-stick to go with it, just to make a complete Iowa meal. Be warned, though: if you actually eat it, as opposed to just admiring it, you may instantly turn back into your eight-year-old, clarinet-playing self.

Nov 20, 2006

I, too, would like to take exception to what the person said above, who stated that playing the violin was NOT supremely geeky.

Guess what I played! Guess what I was!