What moment did you make your parents most proud?
I know mine. I was in 8th grade, and playing my very first season with the Pacific Northwest Youth Orchestra. When I auditioned there was a senior and a sophomore also on trumpet. I was thrilled, THRILLED to just be accepted.
The music for the season was picked expecting a very good first trumpet, a quite competent second trumpet and an extremely green third trumpet.
The senior dropped out before the first rehearsal. I never met her.
The sophomore stopped coming at some point, but only formally dropped out way, way, way too late.
We were playing Cappricio Italien by Tchaikovsky. For those of you who can’t automatically hum a few bars, the piece starts out with a big solo trumpet fanfare. Just trumpet. No strings. No one else. It is as bare and bald an entry as a trumpeter might ever hope to make. And midway through the season it became clear that the only person left to play it was little old 13 year old me.
I can just imagine what must’ve been going through the mind of my conductor at that point. It was too late to change the piece. They couldn’t bring in a ringer because they HAD a trumpeter. It was just about as unforgiving a situation as you could be in. I’m personally responsible for at least one box of Tums, I’m sure. Heck, it was unfair to me. What pressure for a girl barely into her teens! I’d been struggling with “Mary Had a Little Lamb” a scant two years prior! Not only did I have to learn a very difficult part, but I had to learn the first (instead of second) trumpet part. But they decided to make the best of it. (Not that anyone SAID this to me, mind.) The local trumpet teacher gave me free lessons and devotion. They encouraged me and taught me and crossed their fingers. By the time the concert rolled around, it was clear that I COULD play the part.
Playing it in a room for your teachers and orchestra members is one thing. Sitting in your folding chair in the high school auditorium while your orchestra conductor lifts her baton, and opening your first ever orchestral concert with a difficult solo? Not so easy. I remember noticing my trumpet teacher surreptitiously had her trumpet out. I don’t blame her. There was every chance I was going to either freeze or botch it. No one knew whether I was capable of pulling this off — least of all myself.
I remember the look in my conductor’s face as she lifted her baton. I’m pretty sure she was chanting some internal mantra version of “Come on… you can do it!” And down came the baton. I was ever so slightly behind the beat on that first note, but out it came, clear and clean. And the rest followed. And we were well into it. And I was totally and completely hooked on the life symphonic.
Of all the moments in my life, I know that was the one where my mother was the proudest of me. She knew how hard I had practiced and worked. She knew how difficult a thing was being asked of me. She knew how possible it was I would fail. She said that she wanted to stand on her chair and shout “The trumpet player is mine!”
I played plenty of big solos and hard pieces after that. But, truth be told, there are few pieces in the symphonic repertoire that expose the trumpet more than that first one I played. That was the day that I learned that I could exceed against great odds, and rejoice in the struggle.