Is anyone else concerned about their extreme moodiness? I still haven’t decided if my increased mood swings are a result of my pills, living with my boyfriend, or job stress. Most likely it’s a combination of those. Anyway, I’m only 30. I’m not supposed to be having these issues yet. Or so they say. I have found this all both amusing and perplexing, especially as it relates my last week of concert band.
A little background:
Last year I was inspired by a meeting with an old friend from high school (Thanks, Facebook!) to start playing clarinet again. “You should still play! You were good,” he told me. That was all I needed, those magical words that any highly-competitive, creative person wants to hear. And that was just the nudge it took to pull out my old clarinet and get it refurbished (fixed up) after a lapse of 7 years. Some months later, I reconnected with my college band director (Again, thank you, Facebook!), who recommended a nearby community band (Thanks, Downers Grove!), and I showed up that first Tuesday night, nervous and eager to play.
Fast forward to last week (and my highs and lows):
Last Tuesday night:
Beginning of rehearsal: I’m chipper! Last weekend I had experimented with sanding some of my reeds a bit, and today I am able to play confidently, without struggle — many of my reeds were tough before, and with the confidence that I wouldn’t squeak (the scariest thing that could possibly happen to any clarinetist.)
Feelings: Band rocks! I feel great! Thank God I decided to do this again, despite its addition to “Hell Tuesdays”: morning meetings, followed by work, followed by tutoring, followed by grabbing a quick bite to eat, followed by two hours of band, ending in a half hour drive, and collapsing right into bed at 10PM.
Nearing end of rehearsal: I’m tired. It’s been a long day, and I’m exhausted (as noted in previous explanation of hellish Tuesday). My focus is off, and my mind wanders. I do the 2nd worst thing a clarinetist can do (or any instrumentalist, really): I play in the middle of a band-wide rest (i.e. I’m playing when I’m not supposed to, and the entire band is silent for that one short part, so EVERYONE notices you screw up). I claimed my mistake, recoiling from the director in shame with an instinctive “Sorry!” This is our THIRD time in a row on that part, and a nearby flautist mumbles about how the director CLEARLY directed us to skip to the 2nd ending.
Feelings: I’m now embarrassed and also annoyed at mentioned nearby unsympathetic flute player (I’m tired!). I have decided that band is a disaster; I don’t have time to practice; I don’t know how I make it through that long day; and I have a lot in my life to worry about right now. (I’m a stressed, over-worked elementary school teacher who could have a breakdown at any time! Just watch!) AND we have SECTIONALS next week. I feel like the director is looking right at me when he says we need to clean up our playing. Are we having sectionals because of ME?
And then the next week:
The Monday right before the next rehearsal: Still have left over feelings from the end of last week. Determined to get a good session of practicing in before the next day. (Late practice is better than no practice!)
Feelings: Wary but somewhat determined.
Actual practice session: Completely awful. EVERY SINGLE reed just will not work. I try sanding; I try sucking (adding moisture). I try EVERY SINGLE reed, and I try adjusting the ligature. NOTHING WORKS. I blow as hard as I can, and my embouchure (the seal I make with my mouth around the mouthpiece), goes to pot within five minutes.
Feelings: Infuriated. I swear at my reeds. I throw my reeds across the coffee table. I swear at the coffee table. My clarinet. I look for other things to swear at. I grouch. I complain. My boyfriend vacates the area within minutes. Now I’m angry and frustrated because it’s no fun to vent to an empty room (dogs and cats excluded. . . oh wait, they’re gone, too).
Tuesday night rehearsal:
I’m stuffed full of a Big Mac that I know I shouldn’t eat and that I shoved down my mouth in 5 minutes before I ran out the door, so that I could arrive at rehearsal 3 minutes before start time (This, by the way, is awful timing for a clarinetist because we have MORE PIECES TO PUT TOGETHER THAN ANY OTHER INSTRUMENT IN THE ENTIRE BAND: bell, two middle pieces with the keys, barrel, mouthpiece, ligature, and REED.)
Not only was I late by clarinet standards, but we were doing sectionals today, so I plunked my butt down in my usual seat, surrounded by a sea of empty orange chairs. Thankfully an amused trumpet player smiled and told me woodwind sectionals were in the hall, gesturing in that general direction.
Added feelings: God, everyone must thing I’m a really “special” person. Last week I played in the middle of a rest, and this week I seem to think it’s perfectly normal that all of the other woodwind players are missing, except for me.
And yet. . .
Feelings at end of rehearsal: Band rocks! Me and the other 2nd clarinetist rocked! My reed WORKED. (It was the second one I tried, and I didn’t DARE attempt another after what happened yesterday.) And to top it all off, we were complimented by the director of our sectional.
Life IS good.
That is, until tomorrow. . .