In Hollywood, “The Sound of Music” turns 50 this year. In my household, it turns 10 this July. Allow me to explain.
This was the week the recorders arrived in my 9-year-old daughter’s classroom. For those of you who don’t know what a recorder is, it’s a flute/clarinet-like apparatus that fourth-graders like my daughter learn how to play music on and drive the family cat crazy. They kind of look like those things that swamis use to get the cobras to come out of the baskets. When I was a kid, mine was made by the Tonette company. That doesn’t add to the story, but I just wanted to impress you with my vast and possibly eidetic memory.
The idea is to introduce the children to rudimentary music in fourth grade to see if they will be interested in joining the school band once they get to fifth grade. They get the experience of learning how to read sheet music, playing scales, so on and so forth.
Elementary school music teachers must have incredible amounts of patience along with unlimited migraine prescriptions. (That over-the-counter stuff just doesn’t cut it.) I have a rough enough time with one 9 year old struggling through “Mary had a Little Lamb” time after time after time, but I cannot possibly comprehend listening to 30 or so of the budding-Beethovens careening their way through that delightful little ditty for 40 agonizing, consecutive minutes.
Actually, my daughter is getting pretty good with that particular number. Well ... at least the first half of the song anyway. The second half she struggles on. I call that her modern jazz rendition. She’s really not too bad considering this is her first week of organized music performance.
However I realize this is just the beginning. This year it’s a recorder, next year it will be a saxophone, trombone, flute or snare drum. That’s where the true trouble lies.
I remember when my older sister was learning how to play the clarinet. (I was going to mention about how I learned how to play a coronet but as I remember, I was always quite exceptional. And besides, my older sister’s on vacation in Florida, and she had the gall to send me a picture of waves gently flowing into the Gulf Coast while we were in the midst of an ice storm earlier this week. So I think I’ll pick on her.)
When my sister, (did I mention that she’s older?) first started playing that horrible clarinet, it sounded like she was doing unspeakable things to a goose. That clarinet, or as I liked to refer to it, the evil black instrument with the silver round keys that was produced from the bowels of Hades was full of loud, high-pitched squeaks and squeals — the kind that made our dogs howl and head for the hills, begging for auditory mercy.
I can still picture her sitting on the edge of Mom and Dad’s bed (acoustically speaking, the best spot in the old farmhouse,) wearing her dumb old smelly girl clothes, doing horrible, unnatural things to the works of John Philip Sousa. She always blamed it on a split reed. The early ‘70s must have been a bad time for clarinet reed production in the United States.
So this is what I fear: My daughter turning into a foul-smelling, tone-deaf wind instrument player that sends me photos from Florida just like my much, much, much older sister. Our house will become a haven for God-awful musical caterwauling that, ironically, will most likely drive our cat up a wall.
However, my wife and I stand behind our daughter’s introduction into the musical arts because I imagine this is how the likes of Cher, Elvis, Madonna and Slim Whitman got their start. All of these musicians went on to make gazillions of dollars, and I really wouldn’t mind if my daughter became obscenely wealthy.
Not that I’m really into her being rich and famous, but as she has reminded me on many occasions, she is one of the people who ultimately gets to pick out my nursing home some day. And I want one that gets cable TV.
You can contact Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.