The Flute


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Last year my son had the opportunity to begin instrumental music lessons and band at school. He chose saxophone and seems to be enjoying the experience, most of the time.

Last year, when all the parents were called to the band-room at school to learn about the school's instrumental program, I was eager to go. When I walked into the room with all the chairs arranged for band practice, the music stands poised in front of the chairs, a rush of nostalgia swept over me. It was such a long time since my days of playing flute in the band at school. I, like my son, started playing an instrument in the fourth grade. I remember the first day of lessons, twelve girls sitting nervously with their flutes. The music teacher was trying to teach us the embouchure. He told us to make believe we were kissing our boyfriends; waves of giggles filled the air. By fifth grade six of us were left, by sixth grade only four. Eventually, I was the lone flute player in my grade.

My mother never missed a band concert, quite a feat for a mother of five children. Band was when I would spend time with my friends Julie and Karen. They were one grade ahead of me, but sat right next to me in band, they were flute players too. We were all in the marching band together too. Every high school football game that was played at another school, the marching band had a school bus bring us to the game. We would spend the time on the bus singing cheers for the football team, or any song at all, a snare drum keeping time for us. At the games, one of the cheerleaders became our cheerleader, often directing us when to cheer with our instruments, it was so much fun.

Our band director took the marching band seriously, no rings or jewelry while in uniform, no gloves in cold weather. We practiced every night after school, sometimes for two hours. We weren't allowed to read music as we marched; we were to memorize it all. He had us practice elaborate formations for our half-time shows, we were good. A couple of years I played piccolo in the band, I liked that too. The director was a stern man. Julie, Karen and I took delight in small acts of defiance, we were never his favorites, but we had each other.

I played the flute for many years, but I was never a stellar flute player, fair at best. I was not interested in practicing very much. My parents rented my flute from the fourth grade until the end of school. Then my flute was gone, given back to the school, I haven't played since.

As my son practices his saxophone, I wish I were playing along at his side. My friend Julie, who is now a band director at a school, told us that the fingerings on a saxophone are similar to a flute. I tried playing my son's sax once; it was very different to me. I find myself skimming the classified ads, seeing if anyone is selling a flute. I wouldn't dream of buying a new one because I'm not convinced I would actually play it much. I rarely practiced when I had one.

I accompanied my son to his saxophone lesson tonight. His instructor had a flute displayed in his studio for the first time. I just stared at it from across the room, then my son asked him to play it. I listened to the lyrical, clear tone of the instrument, and once again I was taken back to my youth. I believe it is only a matter of time before a flute and I find each other, and this time there will be no letting it go.

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