I started playing the horn in 1994, on my 11th birthday. From the very first day, it was at the front of my mind and eventually became one of the innermost parts of who I am. Like most musicians, except for a very few, I have experienced incredible ups and downs, and weathered what has turned out to be a gigantic storm of change. I am so thankful for how unpredictable my life in music has been because it has helped me discover a source of strength that I might never have found. I could never be a parent without these important lessons that I learned from being a horn player.
One of the biggest things I think of on the horn is not to overdo things. Sometimes the passion I have for the music I play manifests itself in physical ways that don't create the most desirable results. Sometimes I articulate too hard, or play too loud, or move the inside of my mouth too much when I'm enjoying what I'm playing...which is pretty much all of the time! When I catch myself overplaying, I remind myself to edit and that my primary focus is to convey the music I'm playing. Enjoying the music I'm making is a great perk, but I have to enjoy it responsibly. Take a step back and breathe.
Flash forward to two days ago, when our sweet little toddler came back from his 2 year checkup. He had been examined and had one shot, and was just done with the adults in his life forcing him to do things that were for his own good. I took him to the store and promised him anything he wanted, and he picked up two bags of Goldfish for himself. We got to our front door, and he promptly sat on the stairs and ate with an expression of what can only be described as sass. I picked him up and brought him into our apartment and he threw the biggest tantrum of his little career. We tried to soothe him and there was nothing to be done, we had exhausted his patience and his little spirit. I let him throw himself into my lap and do what he needed to do. I took a step back...and breathed.
One of my earliest memories on the horn is my first tortuous practice session, when I wanted so badly to sound like Dennis Brain, the only CD I could afford, and I couldn't figure out a lip trill. All of the searching on the Yahoo! Horn Group came up with no concrete advice on how to play one, and I sat in front of my Texas Conn for two hours coming up with no results or ideas. I finally put the horn in the case, realizing that I should ask for help from my band director because we couldn't afford private lessons. Shortly thereafter I discovered the Kopprasch books and figured it out from there. At a certain point, you have to let it go and start again the next day with a new plan. This point is different in every situation, and there's an honesty in admitting when you have done enough and know it can't go any further, and knowing that you haven't worked hard enough and need to discover the solution.
Today I had a day with my new baby daughter where I could not make her happy. I tried talking to her, excess diaper changes, playing white noise, swings, play mats, extra feeds (she's too big for a swaddle already!); and the only thing she wanted was for me to rest her on my shoulder so she could sleep close to me. The rest of the day turned into buying time by handing her to other people, and setting her aside for ten-minute intervals so that I could at least get time on my face. I ended up finagling two hours of face time, which is not bad on a high-stress day like today, but I have to accept that this was a tough day for her and my intense practice plan was not to be. I turned it into an intense score study day, and I'll try again tomorrow to do what I would like to do. I'll start again tomorrow with a new plan, which will involve her dad for sure!
I can't say that I wouldn't figure out how to take care of these kids without ever having played the horn. I love these kids, and part of what makes me an ideal fit for the horn is a rabid determination to figure things out. I feel like I'm taking these many memories of conflict and happiness and applying them to the wonderful adventure that we're living as parents of these two sweet little kids. Perhaps the biggest lesson I can take from the horn is that, in some ways, I've been a parent for almost two decades now: of myself, of my passion for music, and of this wonderful instrument that still defines my day. The horn is always with me, and will be with me until I'm not around anymore. It's my unique calling, and there's no other style exactly like mine to shape, mold and preserve...kind of like creating and raising a tiny person.