30 Days of Me: Day 19 - A talent of yours

While I've mentioned it on here in the past, a lot of people don't know, but I am quite musical.

http://whi.s3.prod.lg1x8.simplecdn.net/images/4226882/tumblr_l9qo44xWsw1qa9nkeo1_500_large.jpg?1286328484Growing up, I started playing the piano in 2nd grade and took lessons up through part of my sophomore year of high school. I got pretty good and could easily play a lot of sheet music. While most of my lesson books consisted of different classic pieces and well-known "ditties" I also enjoyed playing from other material too. I loved playing through the songbook of the Beethoven based movie "Immortal Beloved" as it was a collection of some of Beethoven's best and well-known works. I also enjoyed The Lion King songbook (which is one of my favorite Disney movies ever) as well as Hanson's "Middle of Nowhere" songbook. I know, I know - Hanson?! I was really into them in Jr. High (which is appropriate at that age), and some of their songs had some really pretty piano parts to them, such as the song "Yearbook" and "I Will Come to You." Another piece of sheet music I LOVED to play and had memorized at one point of Jewel's "Foolish Games."

I haven't had regular access to a piano in years (since I went off to college), so I am a bit rusty, but I can still play decently well. I told hubby that someday when we're in our home I would really like to get a piano so I can sit down and play whenever. Of course I can do that at my parent's house, but usually when I'm over there it's for a purpose and I just don't have the time or urge to sit down and start playing.

Another instrument I play is the oboe.

I started playing in 5th grade, as that was the first year that band was offered at school. I remembered that those of us that were interested in band could sign up for a time to meet with the band director and try out some of the different instruments we were interested in to determine which would be best for us. They had showed us and demonstrated all the instruments during an informational session the week prior and I was pretty set on playing the oboe. They said it was one of the more uncommon instruments in a band with usually  only a few oboe players - I always liked to be a little different.

http://www.schreiberwinds.com/images/OboeGraphic.jpgSo I go up for my session with the band director and tell him I'm interested in playing the oboe. He explained that it's a double reeded instrument and so not to worry if I can't get a sound out of it, as double reeds are often harder to play than single reeded instruments. I try it and got a noise to come out right away. The band director was quite impressed. The oboe was also one of the more expensive instruments to rent (which they suggested we rent our instruments on a payment plan rather than just pay outright) so he suggested I try the single reeded clarinet. I did but had the worst time trying to get a sound out - it just wasn't as natural to me as the oboe was. He also had me try the flute and I just couldn't get the blowing motion down. So he put me down for the oboe, but of course he had to contact our parents and discuss the details of everything with them and get their approval on the rental agreement for the instruments.

That year, we had 4 oboe players in 5th grade band, myself included. In 6th grade, at one point we had 5 oboe players, which was a bit of a record, although one dropped out, and then another and by 7th and 8th grade there was just 3 of us.

Also, in 8th grade, since the Jr. High (6th-8th grade) band had gotten to be so big and the newer high school band was so small, they bumped us 8th grade members up into the high school band, which was pretty neat. We got to play in the pep band with the high schoolers too and attend all the high school basketball and homecoming soccer games (we didn't have a football team until my sophomore year of high school, as the school's first freshman class was formed when I was in 6th grade). It was pretty neat!

Being in Pep Band as an oboe player though was a bit strange, as the most of the scores didn't include a separate oboe part since oboe isn't really a marching band type instrument. So I found myself having to improvise A LOT by reading the flute part a scale lower than it was written or by playing the keyboard part on the oboe! I made it work though and our director was fine with it.

Freshman year there was just 2 of us playing oboe, but by sophomore year it was just me.

By my sophomore year, the high school band was sounding REALLY good - we were easily playing college level pieces with no problems at all and we had an AWESOME group of talented seniors too. We got to compete against other area and state schools in a few showcases and almost always placed in the top 3. That year we took a combined band and choir trip to Georgia for a week which was a lot of fun! We got to perform at some underground mall in Georgia as well at 2 small private schools and we did a bit of sight-seeing too throughout the week.

http://www.grubsers.com/img/instruments/oboe/oboist.jpgThat was the year we also started participating in the Augustana Honors Band which is held at Augustana College in the Quad Cities every year over President's Weekend. What it was, is that the director would select the top students in their band (usually one from each section) that were interested and then we would register to take part in this event. We'd travel out there together early Friday morning, and then that afternoon we would audition with other students all over the Midwest to get placed in 1 of 2 bands and be assigned our chair position. Then we would break for dinner and come back to learn where we placed and attend a late 2-3 hour practice that evening. We would then get up Saturday, have a shorter session where we would go over things the director noticed needed work on the night before and then we would break for lunch, come back have another 2-3 hour session, break for dinner, have another 2-3 hours session, go to bed and then Sunday afternoon we would have our big concert for parents and anyone else that wanted to come. During the whole time, the director's did other director-like things together and had workshops of their own to attend. Every year there was also a guest conductor too and one of the pieces we would perform would be a piece that the guest conductor had written - it was pretty neat!

Unfortunately, after that year, things went a bit downhill for my school's band program. Our awesome band director (who had started there my 5th grade year and really turned the band program into something great) got a job offer over the summer to teach music at a gift elementary school across town. While I'm sure the pay was comparable if not better, you really can't blame him for taking it - a lot had happened over the years since he first started there; he had son with special needs (he was born deaf) and while us students appreciated all the time and energy he put into us and the program, he must have been sacrificing a lot at home, having to accompany us to all the various ensembles, competitions, performances, etc. It was sad to see him go - especially for those of us in my class who had started with him, as we wouldn't get to finish our journey with him as our director - but we understood and he was missed.

The director we had my junior year though... he pretty much destroyed any progress we had made as a band over the years. He wouldn't let us play the majority of the Pep Band songs we had been playing for years, as he deemed them "too hard" or "too advanced" for us. He never gave us a chance to prove to him the college level we had been playing at for the past few years, instead he gave us easy high school level pieces that were just boring, no fun to play and not a challenge at all. So many people hated band that year as it just wasn't fun anymore. The seniors, during their last Pep Band ever, had to pretty much beg him to let us play songs we had played previously like "Smoke on the Water" and "Land of a Thousand Dances" - he finally gave in, but had the attitude that it wouldn't sound good. The freshman, who hadn't had the chance to play the pieces before, sat out, while the rest of us took over. He was actually shocked at how well played, claiming he "didn't know we could play at that level!" We all kinda rolled our eyes as we had been trying to tell him that for over a semester now, he just refused to listen or give us the chance. Even still, we didn't really play anything more challenging. The handful of us that had gone to Augustana the year before though talked him into letting us go again that year, after we found the information for it.

We were all glad to learn over the summer that he wouldn't be returning the next year, although the damage had already been done.

By senior year, a lot of people from the previous year had dropped prior to the announcement that that director would not be back and their schedules were already set (including the better of 2 freshman oboe players we had that year, leaving me to suffer with the bad one). There was only a handful of seniors that returned, however band had become quite the joke. In an experiment, the school created a "zero hour" period that started 730am prior to the official 1st period of the day and bumped certain electives (band included) to this new early period.

The director we had this year was a younger, somewhat fresh out of college girl who had subbed for the band and choir in years previous, although she had made it quite clear several times that she WAS NOT a band director as her music background was in vocal and not instrumental. She did an alright job, although knowing she would have rather been the choir director than the band director didn't really help us any. The music we had that year wasn't challenging at all and us seniors hated the zero hour time, so often we'd all just show up for the last 10-15 minutes of class, sight read our pieces with no problems and be done for the day - yes, we regularly blew off the first half of band practice but I don't know if it was because we were seniors or what, but the band director didn't seem to care or mind - we still all got A's! We also got to do the Augustana Honors Band again that year, however, at the end of the year when it came to recognition, us seniors got the shaft that year.

Every year, during the last concert of the year, the director would have all the seniors that had been part of band since 5th grade come forward and each accept a special plaque with our name on it to show off the achievement of sticking with it for so long and this year, the handful of us seniors that had stuck with it had all been there since 5th grade so we were all expecting to get our plaques like the others before us had. Well... no one told us, but that year, instead of the nice plaques we each got a crappy paper certificate that looked like someone at the school had just printed off in Word last minute stating our achievement. It was a huge letdown and we were all a bit disappointed. I have no clue if they ever went back to the plaques or not (I hope they didn't otherwise that's a huge blow to us!).

I did continue playing in college though, joining the University Band that met most Tuesday evenings during the semester (you were only allowed to miss 2 classes unexcused) and had 2 concerts per semester that we were required if you were taking the course for credit (it was one of those courses that you could take over and over again for 1 credit each semester). I did University Band 3 or 4 semesters before I quit, as I was also working at the newspaper several nights a week and they really needed me to take the Tuesday shift.

Unfortunately, while I still have my oboe, I haven't really played much since!

I also own a bass guitar, but I never really got any good at it. I can play a few basslines here and there, but that's really about it as I never took lessons or learned the instrument like I should have.


  1. I wish I could play the piano...

    I used to play the cello but, stopped in high school. Sometimes I wish that I had kept up with it.

  2. Nice! I wish I knew how to play the piano. My mom is quite good at it, and at one point when I was maybe 7 or 8 she thought she'd teach me how to play. But this is one of those examples of how hard it can be to have your mom for a teacher: For my first lesson, she showed me how to play the C-major scale, up and down the scale. I then did it myself (obviously, it's quite simple). Then she told me to practice it. I said, "But I already can do it." She told me to practice more, anyway. I refused. And that was the end of my piano lessons, haha.

    The oboe is a very cool instrument. I played the flute, from fourth grade all the way through high school. I already owned a hand-me-down flute from my cousin, so it was the obvious choice for me (though I would occasionally be jealous of the French horn players). Luckily I liked the flute a lot, the sound it makes and the way it's played (didn't have to worry about reeds at all). Now I hardly play at all, though I did at least bring my flute to Hawaii.

    I'm so glad I learned the flute. It's really cool knowing how to play musical instruments, and I can still impress people who don't know better ;) Piano would be a great skill, though, if only for things like playing Christmas carols at Christmas parties, and things like that.

  3. The oboe being "different" is what attracted me to it as well : ) I remember my cousin pushing me to play the flute like her and my mom pushing me to play the clarinet like she did. I didn't want to follow either of them! Haha. So oboe was my choice : )


What's your thoughts?