I Pulled out My Clarinet: Music to My Ears, Not My Kids’

Lori Straus playing the violin as a child.

The violin was another instrument I dabbled with as a child.

The other week, my kids pulled out all of their toy instruments and started their own marching band. This particular band didn’t let any instrument play for very long: each instrument was required to pick up where the previous one had left off as the boys dropped one instrument and grabbed another. The week had been pretty stressful for me, so I thought it was high time I ignored the kitchen mess and joined in: I pulled out my clarinet.

My first clarinet lessons were in grade 6, when you could take lessons for short periods of time through the school board. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to learn the clarinet or the flute, so the instructor had me purse my lips like you would for a flute. I don’t know what I did wrong, but he handed me a clarinet.

A year later, I switched schools and joined the school band. I think there were four of us. I really felt for our band leader, the school’s art and music teacher. We played The Phantom of the Opera theme so poorly, I think the Phantom would have hanged himself if he’d heard it.

After those roughly two years of not really practicing, the clarinet stayed locked up in its case for roughly another ten. (It was a cheaper one, made of resin, so it could handle the storing abuse I put it through.) During my grad studies, it came out again, and I hired university students as private teachers. I eventually bought a wooden clarinet, too. I actually practiced solid for about three years, I think. Then I got pregnant with my first child, and the clarinet got packed away again.

When I pulled out my clarinet to join my kids in their marching band, I also pulled out all the sheet music I’d been carting around with me over the years, including my practice binder from the school band. I played a few songs for the boys. Some they recognized, others they didn’t (even though they should have – I guess I need to practice).

Then my older son started hammering out tunes on the toy xylophone he had. There was definitely no tune there – he was actually playing the rhythm. But he was really trying to play with me, asking me if I recognized this song or that one. My younger son banged around on a tambourine. He actually had a beat going, but he would only hold it for about 10 or 15 bangs before stopping. I tried to play along, but it’s hard to play any music for just 10 or 15 bangs and expect to feel accomplished!

In the end, we had fun. The clarinet went away again – bedtime was looming. I’m not sure when it’ll come out next, but since it’s already made one appearance, I’m certain it’ll make more.

2 thoughts on “I Pulled out My Clarinet: Music to My Ears, Not My Kids’

    • It was, and you’re right. I remember the first time a year ago I pulled out the clarinet, put it together, blew a note, and both kids told me to put it away 🙂 You don’t forget those!

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