My daughter just began playing the trumpet. She knows five notes, though they rarely sound the same when she plays them. I listened to her practice last night, over and over, getting frustrated that she wasn’t playing them right and that her C sounded the same as her G. She is already willing to give up. I can tell that Band will not play a prominent role in her future.
Regardless, the struggled notes that flatulated from her trumpet took me back. Her brother sounded just the same when he began learning the trumpet. Every new musician does. But what I like about trumpet is that the beginning blurts of sound do not pierce my ear with shrillness. I don’t mind listening to wavering notes and loud blasts of air. In fact, I rather enjoy it. I love music and remember learning to play my flute. It was just as awkward for me as it is/was for my children. My daughter hasn’t learned patience yet, nor has she realized that all musicians start out this way.
To keep her from quitting, I went upstairs and got my old flute. I brought it downstairs and played those first five notes with her, making the lesson a duet. It took me back, back, back, to my days of lessons and recitals.
I was an excellent flutist. I practiced more than any child needed to practice. I loved the sounds I could create, and loved mastering the technical difficulty of advanced classical pieces. The only thing I didn’t love was performing. Terribly shy, I froze in front of people. As long as I could play unwatched, I was fine. But playing before an audience was torture.
My daughter and I finished up a few sets of scales and she was ready to call it a night. I was ready for her to, too, because by that point, I’d dragged out my old music and couldn’t wait to see if I could still play it. I could! I was thrilled by my trills and played song after song. And then I wondered – did my mother ever miss hearing me play? I’d never thought about it before, but my flute must have been the background music of her life for quite a while. I wondered whether she’d recognize the songs if I played them for her again? Would she be able to anticipate the melodies?
I played until my fingers ached and then put my flute away, determined to pull it out and practice more often. As I did so, my daughter said that she wants to switch to chorus next year, and I knew that my days of listening to rudimentary trumpet were already numbered. As silly as it sounds, I’ll miss it.
But then, she asked if we wanted to hear her singing. Of course we said yes, and she opened her mouth and made the most beautiful sounds I never expected to hear from her small, little mouth. She was nearly pitch-perfect, and sang with vibrato. I was amazed as I listened to her sing, performing song after song as long as we would listen. And so now I know, the trumpet will not be the background music of my life. It will be her beautiful little voice, and I will treasure every note.