Brass Noise

I used to play the trumpet.

That’s one of those things that always surprises my nowadays friends when I tell them, and they always say, “I would not have guessed that in a million years.”

I played trumpet in the school band from 4th – 8th grade. Not an incredibly long stint, or an illustrious music career, but enough to get a note. I don’t remember why I joined, though I know that it had something to do with an ultimatum issued by my mother that ended up being useless because the other thing ended up happening anyway. If that sounds confusing, imagine how I felt when I realized that I was stuck in elementary and middle school band for the next five years.

I used to count down to the day that I could quit. I used to skimp on my practice times and coast by on what little rehearsal I actually did, which I never did outside of band. I used to hate going to band and sitting down to play the trumpet. It was boring, annoying, and the last thing that I wanted to be doing.

And yet, I did (and still do) love the trumpet.

In spite of what I told everyone, I enjoyed playing the trumpet. I liked the sound and the feel, though maybe it did get a bit heavy at times, and it was hard to hold when your hands were too small. Buzzing your lips against metal was really unpleasant, yet once you got used to it, it wasn’t all that bad. So why did I say that I hated it?

I think it had more to do with what kind of music I was playing than what was required to play said music. Even when I was in the 4th grade, I really liked the idea of jazz trumpet, but that was the furthest thing from what we played in band. We did a fairly wide range of pieces, but a lot of the music seemed more flute- and clarinet-oriented, and I’d often find that when my favorite refrains came up, the trombones got to play while the trumpets sat through bar after bar of rests. And don’t even get me started on the year we played the Harry Potter theme song. Fifty measures of rests at the beginning, followed by ta ta ta ta ta tata taaatata ta ta taatata tata taaa ta ta ta. Do you know what it’s like to sit through fifty measures of rests and listen to a slow, melodic song and then have to jump in and play a single note as fast as you can the moment your instrument comes in? DO YOU?

Okay, so I got myself started on the Harry Potter theme song. Suffice to say, though, that we weren’t playing what I had expected or hoped for, and that made it difficult to enjoy my stint as a trumpeter.

Jazz band was an option for those who wished to take it as an extra elective. But it was only offered in the morning before school started, and I had a difficult enough time getting up for school as it was. School started early, and I did not want to start even earlier. (I suppose karma got the last laugh when my high school decided to alleviate its own scheduling conflict by forcing my AP Chemistry class to meet at 7 AM for our weekly lab session, but that was its own special breed of hell.) So, I missed out on jazz band, suffered through Harry Potter and other songs, and quit the moment I graduated middle school.

I probably would have had more fun in high school band, but then again, the friends that I had made in middle school band became rather unfriendly in high school, regardless of whether they continued with their own instruments or not. I don’t know if playing more enjoyable songs would have made up for that, but honestly, I don’t really care.

I don’t regret not playing the trumpet in high school. I don’t regret quitting it after middle school. But when I hear a song that features a trumpet, I can pick the brassy notes out immediately, and I find myself thinking about my days as a trumpeter.

My trumpet sits in my closet now, gathering dust. I remember almost everything about it, right down to the nasty cleaning process, emptying the spit valves, and getting bruises on my knees from the case knocking into me as I fought my way through crowded school hallways. Even with all of that, though, I remember how much I wanted to play the trumpet, and buzz out the songs that I love. And that’s when I regret letting myself forget the notes.


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