The summer after fourth grade my parents enrolled me in a summer music course to learn how to play an instrument. This introductory course was designed to give its attendees a head start at learning an instrument as all the kids would be joining the school band the following fall.
Before the class started I had to make the important decision of what instrument I wanted to play— a decision that would shape my entire life— and if I picked incorrectly, I knew I would be destined to lead a sad and miserable existence. I wasn’t butch enough to play the trumpet. I wasn’t prissy enough to play the flute. And I certainly wasn’t Asian enough to play the violin. So after a whole minute of critical thinking, I chose the saxophone.
I waited impatiently for the summer course to begin. It was my reasonable belief that I was the most gifted child in all the universe, and naturally, would be sensational at the saxophone immediately. I could not wait to get my hands on the shiny, expensive looking piece of metal and start churning out jazzy noises that made people want to get up and jazzercise.
The summer class finally started and it was great. There were fifty or so hyper-excited eight-year-olds who, like me, were exceedingly happy to be holding something that made loud noises. We didn’t really learn anything, nor did we get any individual attention to ensure that we were playing correctly— we just kind of blew away on our instruments and thought about how much better we were than all the other eight-year-olds who were not taking this jumpstart course.
Both summer and my class came to close and my first year of school band was starting. I was eager to show off to my new teacher my extraordinary saxophone abilities. Surely she would be blown away as I played the difficult classics I had mastered over the summer.
She looked me straight in the eye and told me I had it all wrong.
According to this muxpert (music expert = muxpert), I was completely neglecting the woodwind technique known as tonguing. For all you non-muxperts out there, tonguing is like rapid fire licking, except the intended target is not your Fudgesicle or Tiger Beat poster of Justin Bieber, it is the reed of the saxophone.
Such incompetence, my teacher concluded, could only be remedied in one way—PROMPT CONFISCATION OF MY SAXOPHONE. Everything but the top goose neck. She told me that I wouldn’t be needing the rest (98%) of the instrument until I learned how to tongue. “All you need to focus on,” she said as she took the instrument out of my hands, “is properly licking your saxophone.”
My precious ego was shattered into a million pieces, my dreams evaporated. There would be no jazzercising tonight. No jazzercising ever. When I returned home I threw the case in the corner and looked at it with contempt. This was what Don McLean was singing about, because, this was truly the day the music died.
By the time my parents came home, I had already buried my shame and musical failure deep inside my soul and was on the computer fully engaged in Math Blaster.
“Greetings Daughter! Why don’t you show us what you learned during your first saxophone class?”
“Can’t you see I’m busy learning math.”
“FINE. BUT DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING FANCY.”
I walked very angrily over to my case and pulled the remaining piece of my saxophone out. My parents looked at my stripped saxophone perplexedly.
“Where is your saxophone?”
I sat in the corner gently weeping and licking the reed of my saxophone. My parents backed away slowly.
When my teacher took away my saxophone, I like to be poetic and say that what she was really taking was my enthusiasm for musical growth and development. Because from that moment forward, there was nothing I felt for my saxophone but pure, utter hatred— and I wanted to quit immediately.
My parents, however, did not feel the same way. Their strange parental conscience deep down in their hearts whispered to them, “If you let your daughter quit the saxophone, she won’t grow up understanding the concepts of perseverance and responsibility. She will unavoidably become a drug-addicted hooker that lives in Orlando. And you will have to take care of her HIV babies.”
Not even a convincing PowerPoint would dissuade them. There was only one thing left I could do— murder my parents and make it look like an accident. But, surprisingly enough, I love my parents and/or am not deranged so I just kept on playing. Also my parents are indestructible.
End Part I