Rachel Chabin, the author, with her beloved clarinet. Courtesy Yash Sharma
My first stint with instrumental music was back in elementary school. Every few days, a group of students would be escorted down a flight of stairs, past the clanking boiler and into our teacher’s basement classroom. For a year I took great pride in what I thought was my prowess with the recorder, managing to play a small, simplified part of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Once I moved up to playing the flute, however, my enthusiasm for band stalled and I struggled to play even the simplest notes. In middle school — where we didn’t have any music program — I forgot about my wind instrument experience, convinced I wasn’t cut out to be a musician after all.
Fast-forward to my first day of freshman year. I’m clutching my schedule tightly as I wander through the second-floor hallway, searching the doors for number 243. I find it at the far end of the hall, near the side exit and go inside nervously. I’m met with the sight of about 60 chairs arranged in a horseshoe around the conductor’s stand. Despite my greatest efforts, I can’t think of any way to erase “Beginning Band” from period eight on my new program, and so I resignedly took a seat and listened to my new teacher talk to us about choosing an instrument. Above all, he said, we are not to choose an instrument we’ve played before; it would prevent us from experiencing band from scratch. Knowing I’d never get away with choosing the flute, I picked the instrument that looked the most like a recorder: the clarinet.
During those first few days, I consoled myself by remembering I could transfer after a year. After a couple of weeks, quitting never crossed my mind. In band I found a community of passionate musicians who wanted to make something beautiful and were willing to play their hearts out in every rehearsal. To my astonishment, I learned something about myself as well: I got more pleasure out of playing the clarinet than nearly anything else. With my instrument and enough effort, any type of music — from old Yiddish melodies to pop songs to classical arrangements — is fair game. (Another key discovery: recorders and clarinets are not the same. Luckily for me, I fell in love with my clarinet’s sound and never wanted to go back to that plastic recorder.)
I recently completed my senior year of high school. In these four years, I’ve moved from my teacher’s beginner class to the advanced concert band, and I led the clarinet section. In May I had the chance to do even more than play. During our spring concert I put down my clarinet — to pick up the conductor’s baton. While my music teacher made a rare cameo as a performer, he gave me the chance to lead the band I’ve come to love.air max 90 essential amazon