At the age of 11, my classmates and I sat with our band teacher and picked out instruments that we were interested in learning. I wanted to try the clarinet, but I wasn't able to get any sound out of it — so my teacher suggested the flute. After producing a clear, piercing note from the mouthpiece, my fate was decided.
Learning the instrument was not easy for me — mostly due to my lack of dedication when it came time to practice. For some reason, I thought I would be able to "wing it" when it came to learning how to read notes and fingering. The other three flute players and I would meet each Tuesday afternoon, and I felt my teacher's frustration during the first month. She knew how much we all needed to practice and dedicate time to learning, but my young mind didn't understand the correlation between doing things by repetition until I finally was able to memorize notes and finger placement.
Because I bought my instrument from Schmitt Music instead of renting, I was given four free one-on-one lessons from a teacher. I don't remember his name, but I do remember he always smelled like cigarettes and gave me a huge lollipop at Christmas time as a gift. Through him, I learned little techniques to get better at my instrument that pushed me over the learning hump to finally be able to enjoy making music.
In junior high, my commitment to practicing set me apart from the other flute players, and when it came time to choose two players to accompany the all state orchestra in ninth grade (junior high ran from seventh to ninth grade, and high school was tenth through twelfth grade), I, along with Tracy Thielman, was one of the two.
The music pieces we were given were so much more difficult than anything we ever had played before, and even with hours and hours of practice, I still struggled. As the night of the concert drew closer and closer, I was terrified of being found out as a fraud for not being good enough to play in an all state orchestra. I needed not fear though; instinct took over the night of the show and notes fell into place.
High school turned out to be a different beast than junior high; the herd of musicians started to thin out, based on our levels of allegiance to our instruments. In high school, you had to live and breathe being a band geek to be able to make it. I, feeling that the forced conformity was too stifling for me, rebelled.
I began to hate and resent something that used to be enjoyable to me, so I practiced less and less, and it showed. The teacher and his sarcasm didn't help either. Some people may be able to learn in environments like in the movie Whiplash, but I was/am not one of those people.
I was pushed further and further down the line, and one girl sensed my lack of dedication and challenged my chair. I was angry, but I had no one else to blame but myself.
I quit band after my junior year, giving me senior year to dedicate to soccer, where I found that my natural talent combined with dedication helped me excel faster than I ever had in music. I didn't give up playing, though; I did some recitals in church with my sisters and a few family concerts here and there.
My flute sits in my dusty closet these days, but I do sometimes pull it out and play it when inspiration hits. My fingers naturally find their place and the notes come out, erasing the fear and anxiety I had as a kid. I eventually learned to love playing again; I just had to do it on my terms.
Youa Vang is appreciative of all genres of music — even country. When not writing about music, she can be found working on her standup comedy and cross-stitching mischievous sayings while watching The Simpsons.
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