A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault. ~John Henry Newman, English theologian and poet
Because of the pandemic, I haven’t had a flute lesson in months, and I’ve missed it.
It’s bad enough practicing the same pieces assigned to me back in early March; but knowing that I might have slipped into bad form/habits without somebody to supervise me is worrisome.
So we remedied the situation, being extra-cautious with safety guidelines.
No, you can’t wear a mask and blow a flute.
But we were able to maintain a six-foot distance, and we opted to do our lesson outdoors.
In the park.
‘There’s a pavilion for shade,’ my teacher told me when we were making plans.
‘I’ll bring some clothespins to hold the music down,’ I said.
Lesson Day arrived, and I was there first. But so was a large gathering, and they were ensconced at the pavilion.
Maybe it was a family reunion. Maybe a graduation party.
Certainly not a wedding, for the participants weren’t formally dressed.
Regardless, my heart started pounding.
Strangers were going to listen to me practice?
Well, my teacher arrived and suggested we hike through the park to a grove of oak trees to set up.
‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Can I put out a tin cup so somebody can toss in a few coins? I don’t like playing for free.’
She laughed and reminded me how beautiful a flute sounds, especially outdoors.
‘And I’ll bet there’s not a one of them that can play,’ she added.
I’d just started long tones when several men arrived for batting practice on the diamond behind me.
At every crack! I felt like a baseball was going to smash through my head.
‘Relax,’ my teacher said. ‘I’m watching to make sure we’re safe.’
Eventually, I succumbed to the music, tuning out thoughts of perfection.
There I was, a gentle breeze at my face and the sun at my back, playing a duet (Pachelbel’s Canon in D) with my teacher and a Handel Sonata solo.
Nobody clapped, but then, nobody tossed rotten tomatoes either!
Oh Debbie, what a beautiful, beautiful post! You see, this is exactly what I mean when I say that you are such gifted writer. Great story! And I LOVED the ending!
I bet it felt wonderful to get back to your band practice. And I agree with your teacher in saying how beautiful a flute sounds, especially outdoors. The sound of a flute invokes everything you hear within nature — birds singing, a babbling brook, and the sound of Autumn leaves dancing in the wind.
Thanks so much for sharing your return to band practice, my friend. And Bravo to you for conquering your fear!
Have a super Sunday! X
You know, Ron, I hadn’t really thought about it, but you’re right: a flute does invoke sounds of nature, especially because its range is so wide. The trills sound like water flowing over rocks, the vibrato is much like the warbling birds do, and so on. Great point!
I don’t guess we ever get old enough that we don’t fear something, right? The good thing about having a few years under one’s belt is, we know we are bigger than our fears — and there’s so much joy in beating fear down.
Enjoy the week ahead, and thanks for stopping by! xo
What a great idea! And I bet people loved having their summer activities serenaded by flutes!
I think you might be right, Dawn! Before I got somewhat comfy playing outside, I glanced over at the pavilion, and those people were seated on the edge, kicking their feet into the air and watching us play. I hadn’t heard any music coming from their group when I arrived at the park, so I’ve got to believe they were glad for anything we did (although that Pachelbel would have been extra-special if their gathering had been a wedding reception, ha!!)
Sounds wonderful, Debbie. Good for you.
Thank you, John. It was lots harder than it sounds, especially for an introvert, ha!
I’m sure it was. 😁
This is a sweet story. I never stopped to think you can’t play a flute with a mask, but what an innovative idea to practice in a park and I am sure the freedom of just being outside doing something you love was inspiring.
It was, Pat — thank you! We “did everything right” — six feet apart, hands washed, etc. — except for the masks. But something about being outside felt healthy — must’ve been all that sunshine and fresh air! Of course, the music didn’t hurt either!
Debbie, how lovely to have your flute lesson outside! My oldest sis teaches music lessons (piano, guitar & voice) to 40 students every week This spring she managed most of her lessons online thru Facetime – parents were happy for their kids to continue (& have something to do) @ home. If it rains? 🎶☔️🎶
Good for your sis, Virginia — and her students! My teacher and I discussed doing online lessons, but outdoors won out. This particular park features a covered pavilion, which we intend to commandeer if it’s raining on lesson day. As for the winter months, well, fingers crossed for a vaccine by then!
Maybe outdoor music practice should become a thing! It sounds lovely despite the flying baseballs. Will you be making it a regular thing till we get back to normal, whenever that’s supposed to be?
For sure I don’t practice every day outdoors! I imagine my neighbors would find it most annoying having to listen to scales, long tones, and such when they’d rather be watching TV or something. But outdoors lessons is a good compromise during these days of the pandemic. At least it’s better than no lessons at all!
I liked your idea of the tin cup for coins. After all, there are people who’ve begun profitable music careers by busking on the street. It’s an old-fashioned way of getting one’s music ‘out there,’ but sometimes old-fashioned is just fine.
I came to appreciate the flute in new ways once I began listening it as a jazz instrument. I love Pachelbel and Handel as much as anyone, but give a listen to these dudes. The first and second selections, especially, are real summer music.
One cool thing about flute is how adaptive it is for many genres. As you’ve learned, it lends some interesting sounds to jazz (thanks for a good listen via those links!); however, I gravitate more toward Sousa marches (have you ever heard The Stars and Stripes Forever with 94 piccolos?? — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvWWXv59apY) as well as ALL the classical stuff. James Galway’s playing of Danny Boy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv1rI1kFvwA) never fails to bring a tear to my eye.
What a creative way to continue your flute lessons! And I don’t blame you for being a little intimidated to play in front of others, that would be hard for me, too. Still, you conquered that fear and did it!
Just knowing they were all listening to me play was unnerving, Ann! I tend to be a very private person — one reason I told my teacher “No recitals!” I had to suffer through them when I was a kid, but I’ve reached the age where I shouldn’t have to any more!