Patrick has his first band concert of the year tonight. It was a great show, and it’s always amazing to me to hear the improvement year over year. (I plan on converting over and posting some video of the performance here hopefully this weekend.) But watching my kids in band performances make me regret missing out on band opportunities when I was a kid.
Piano is a great instrument: it’s huge, expressive, complex, bright, dark and rich all at the same time. But it doesn’t lend itself to, say, marching band. Or most high school bands or orchestras. There just isn’t room or a place for it usually in those cases.
On occasion in my youth, I felt like I was missing out on something by not being in band–kids in smaller groups like that had a bond that was unique to them. They seemed to have those inside jokes or looks or something that they just wouldn’t share with the rest of the world, and maybe that’s why I wanted in.
But there were downsides, too. In band, there are concerts. I had recitals. You have to prove yourself and fight for a solo in a band concert. In a piano recital, you are the show…At least for your song or songs in the set.
Oh, I had my chance to join a band: jazz band, senior year. Early in the school year, the established pianist decided he just couldn’t handle the load, so he left. The band was a month away from one of their first performances or competitions, I don’t recall which, and as I knew a number of the members of the jazz band, I was asked to join. There was no audition required, no permission of the director. He deferred this choice to the band members.
I turned them down. First off, their practice was at zero hour, which was 6:30 in the morning, if I recall. That meant driving to school every day, or catching a city bus at some horrifically early hour to get to school on time. Second, it meant more practice time required, and at a time when I was already looking ahead toward cutting back on piano time, it seemed to fly in the face of that concept.
But third–and this is the one that just kind of sticks in my craw, simply because it’s one of those things where the grown-up in me wants to go back and smack my younger version–I was positive that I wouldn’t be able to handle the style required to play jazz piano. I’d watched the band perform, and I knew some about jazz, and the piano was one of the central instruments in the genre. And I didn’t think I had it in me to play that way.
So I never tried. I never joined. I never was in a band. Twenty-five years later, I really wish I was, even if it was just for a few months because I couldn’t handle the material. Because of that, I always watch my kids with pride as they perform with their bands. They have that something that I won’t have but always secretly wanted.
See you tomorrow.