Bubblegum Tears, Squeaks, Squawks, and Medicinal Dogs

The holiday season brings with it something besides just joy, Santa, and Walmart brawlers…it also brings hordes of middle school and high school band students to UAB for our Honor Band Festival over the course of two weeks, and I get to audition all of the clarinetists. Today it was five hours of middle school auditions, during which time I heard about fifty-five of the cherubs. I prepped early this morning, walking over four miles out in the frigid ‘hood while listening to the original Broadway cast recording of My Fair Lady. Had to get my Julie Andrews on so that I could be Poppins-ready for the onslaught. My goal this year was no tears- theirs or mine- and I’m proud to say we made it. There were funny moments, though, as there always are…

During one audition, things weren’t going so well, and the girl took a breath and said, “Oh, my Lord” and immediately jumped back into playing. 

Another young lady was having issues with squeaking. She stopped, shook her head, and said, “This just isn’t going well.”

Another student took a big breath to start, pulled her clarinet out of her mouth, and stared slowly all around my office…”This room is really cool!”

“Now I should tell you- my band director just gave me the music yesterday. Do I really have to play it?”

“Where should I put my gum?”

Cell phone buzzes loudly, repeatedly….“Oh, that’s my phone. It’s fine.”

“I heard that you’re Mary Poppins. You are! I just love her.”

 By the end of the day, I felt rode hard and put up wet. I decided that I needed some Dan and dog time, as well as a bit of medicinal Christmas light therapy. It works every time. A very fun part of my job is being able to work with all levels of students, from beginners to professionals. I love seeing the young ones with all of their exuberance and potential, and trying to help them improve. Next week, I’ll have a slew of high school students come through my office, and I look  forward to hearing some fine players- and to smiling at their antics. All through it, I’ll have my wonderful UAB students helping me to keep smiling through the bubblegum, squeaks, and squawks…but hopefully no tears.  My fingers are crossed. My advice to them comes from my clarinet mentor, Kal Opperman, who said, “Practice and hope…but never hope more than you practice.”


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