Dear Trumpet

Trumpet and I getting together for Easter
Trumpet and I getting together for Easter

My Dearest Trumpet,

You were absolutely my first love. Obviously, you weren’t the first instrument I dated. Piano and I went out for a few years before we met, and I had a crush on voice when I was a little girl. But I fell head over heels for you. I remember the time we played Cappriccio Italien together. There were all the good times at the Evergreen Music Festival or with the Tacoma Youth Symphony. We had fun in pep band (well, even though we rolled our eyes. I still have the third trumpet part – the best part – to “Sweet Child of Mine” memorized). I used to drag you everywhere. Do you remember that 15 days driving trip across the US when I practiced with you at rest stops and behind hotels?

I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with you than I was in high school. You made me feel like I was flying on a dragon when we played Gabrieli together. You were with me in one of the best moments of my youth, when Dr. Cobbs winked and told us – for an encore – that we were going to “crash the ship again” in Scheherazade.

I cannot imagine how my life would have been without you, and I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything.

In the normal course of events, though, I went to college. And although I formed a brass quintet (I cannot BELIEVE that site is still up!) and tried playing in the college symphony, it just wasn’t the same. I don’t want to say we’d grown apart, but we both moved on to other things.

After that, it was like we were Facebook friends. Oh, we’d get together a few times a year at Easter or Christmas or for special occasions. But even though I tried to rekindle the spark by looking for a nice symphony orchestra – or even a brass ensemble – where we could be happy together… it just didn’t work out. I spent a long time pining for you. Over a decade, I remained true. Ok, so there was that one fling with the cornetto, but it that was over quickly.

Finally I had to admit, though, that it was over between us. Things would never be the way they were. I guess that’s the way it goes, isn’t it? You can’t go back to the way things were when you were 17. And I moved on.

You know that I’ve been seeing a new instrument – guitar. And it’s been good to me. I mean, the guitar is patient and kind. It gets along a lot better with my friends than you ever did. I could see guitar and I building something beautiful together – not like what you and I had. Nothing could ever reach that. But, you know, a comfortable life together. We were just starting to get serious, you know. Talk about some investments together. Sign some papers. That kind of thing.

Then all of a sudden, you want back in? Really? That wind ensemble that reached out to me; with the amazing looking repertoire, and the schedule I could actually do… but that is on the same night as guitar lessons… let me get this straight. You want me to break up with guitar, and come back to you? And you’re saying that it won’t be just like it was, but it will be great again between us.

The question is, my dear Anduril1, do you mean it, or are you just playing with my heart again? I don’t want to break up with this good and loving instrument just to have my heart broken again. But I can’t really pass up the change to be with you again, either.

I’ve asked to audition in December – gives me some time to see how guitar and I are working out. But… don’t break my heart, trumpet.

-Me

1 Yes, that really is the name of my trumpet. What can I say, I named it when I was like 14 and the two things I loved best in life were trumpet and Tolkien. DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT?

The trumpet player is mine!

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.