I played clarinet for…four years? Something like that. Grade 5 up until Grade 8, at which point I abandoned it for tenor sax. See, I was destined to be a saxophonist. In Grade 3, I used to pretend my thermos was a saxophone, and I’d pretend to play for the amusement of my classmates during lunch.
Wow, I was a pretty lame kid.
Whatever. The point is that I always wanted to play saxophone. I don’t even know why, or when I first caught onto the idea. I don’t remember anything other than wanting to play saxophone.
In Grade 5, they started us out with clarinets, flutes, trumpets, and drums. We had to pick one, and since my mom knew I wanted to play saxophone, she steered me toward the clarinet. Otherwise, I probably would have ended up with a trumpet.
I don’t know why, but I never really took to the clarinet. For one thing, I almost always felt like I was fighting it…it never came naturally to me. So I was always looking for something different to play.
In Grade 7, I made an ill-advised foray into the french horn, and never actually figured out what I was doing. Thankfully for everyone else, that didn’t last long. I have no idea where the idea came from, so I’ll blame Mr. Thompson, my band teacher.
At some point, they gave me a bassoon for the summer. It was fun to play with, but not so much fun to play.
And finally, in Grade 8, I was given a tenor saxophone. That’s when everything clicked for me. It was, without a doubt, the instrument I was meant to play.
I stopped with the clarinet after Grade 8, and I didn’t regret it at all. The music was boring, and there were lots of clarinet players so I was just playing the same parts as everyone else. With the sax, I could stand out a little and play my own parts. More importantly, I could start playing jazz and really having fun with it.
It wasn’t until years later that I appreciated what I’d lost by not mastering the clarinet. I’m not sure what happened, but I suspect that one day I heard a jazz clarinet on the radio or TV and was struck by the sheer, melodious beauty of it. A well-played clarinet is one of the most mellow, flowing sounds…it’s soothing and energetic at the same time. And I wish I could make that sound.
So, I think I’ll buy a clarinet.
And hopefully for my roommate and neighbours, it won’t take long for me to discover why I abandoned it in the first place.