Monday, April 04, 2011

My father was a lousy clarinettist, I'm afraid:

My father was a lousy clarinettist, but it took many years for me to realize that. My father was also a decent pianist and an fine amateur singer. He hardly ever played clarinet although he owned, one, occasionally picking up my own axe to play a few licks that were error-prone and badly out of tune. I always assumed he sounded bad because he was out of practice.
Many, many years passed, and for almost five years, I did not touch my clarinet at all. One day I started practicing again. A lot of my technique was playing hookey, and the effort to hold my embouchure was painful, but my sound was good, and I could still hit a lot of notes right. That's when it struck me: my father sounded poor when he rarely played clarinet because that's how he had always sounded.
My dad claimed an interesting record about clarinet-playing that blinded my eyes to the reality. He played clarinet in the Columbia College band longer than anyone else. He played third clarinet for three years as an undergrad, three years as a Law School student, and three more years after that, when he still happened to be nearby.
I've often remembered dad's story and thought, 'nine years.' But perhaps I should think, 'nine years in the third clarinet section.' I do know that he greatly enjoyed it.
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