Taryn Lawson

It’s always bittersweet when a child — one living inside your house — takes up a new musical instrument. Sure, grabbing the rucksack (or oboe) and setting off on a new learning adventure is tops, at any age. If you’re unsure what’s so bitter about it, I’d guess you’ve never had a fledgling oboist in the middle of your living room while you’re trying to go about your life.

Defiance Elementary School fifth-graders have, for the first time in their decade-long lives, the opportunity to participate in school band. My daughter is unwavering in her resolve to play the saxophone. I suggested smaller instruments, more economical ones, ones that were invisible altogether, the triangle...no luck.

Really, I’m satisfied with her choice. There’s something intrinsically funny about a kid playing the saxophone, and it strikes me as one of the more pleasant-sounding instruments around, even when played...clumsily. There isn’t too much auditory damage one can do with a sax, right? Right?

I wouldn’t know. Most saxophone practicing is done behind closed doors. When a saxophone is being played in public, it is nearly always done by someone who knows how to make some music. Otherwise, it’s unlikely such a grand (and, as I’ve learned, pricey!) instrument would be around, anyway. Whatever spectrum of sound exists between the silent, unused instrument, and a fully formed saxophone number, is about to be revealed to me. And I am ready.

More than prepared. For several years now, my husband has given music lessons — voice, piano, guitar — to youth, inside our home. Yes, the same home where my desk is, where my couch is, where my ears are. They sing, they strum, they emote... everyone’s life is changed for the better. At least, I assume that’s what’s taking place. I usually stay out of it, but the whole ordeal has taught me a few lessons of my own.

1. Sweets must be avoided at all costs as a motivator, because they render all lesser motivators useless. It is the (candy) bar by which all other motivators will be measured, and anything that is not candy, or candy-adjacent (here we have your cookies, your chocolate-covered pretzels), will fail to motivate.

2. If you are patient and persistent with something you think you do not enjoy, you may come to enjoy it very much. If you encounter a hurdle and give in, you’ll never find out what the rest of the race had in store. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of watching plenty of reluctant hurdle-jumpers ultimately embrace and even come to love studying and playing music. If you are persistent with something you think you do not enjoy, then years go by and you still hate it, and candy does nothing to change that, it might be time to shift gears.

3. If you are struggling to motivate yourself, where general housekeeping is concerned, consider arranging a time, weekly, for two or more people to parade themselves through your home. I know I would clean anyway, were the students not coming over on Sundays, but I do not know when... or why.

4. If your spouse wants to bring a loud, time-consuming event into your living room, consider letting him or her give it a go. You may find, in making such a sacrifice, that what follows enriches your life in ways unexpected.

Of course, you may not. The whole thing could be terrible; I suppose it depends on the nature of the event. It’s tough to know how something’s going to go until it gets underway...

Bring on the saxophone.

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