I suppose the never-ending pandemic has led us all to reevaluate our priorities, causing us to jump back into things we used to do, or try other things we always meant to, but “never had the time.”
A few months ago, I started practicing guitar again with a crew of folks playing at a church here in town. They’re only committing to once-a-month, give or take, so we’ve only actually played at their service twice. Still, returning to a regular practice time each week and getting to play some loud music has been fun! After the flood last Summer, I had to replace a few things, namely my electric guitar amp, so this gave me the excuse to upgrade to something more powerful than what I had before.
Strangely enough, I was approached in early December about joining the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra. The kids started with a new piano teacher last Fall, and her husband directs the Philharmonic, as well as the Marshall Community Band that plays each Wednesday during the Summer. Through a variety of conversations (including with Meg’s orchestra and band directors), they figured out that I used to play percussion instruments in another life, and it turns out folks with that particular skillset aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so the director of the Philharmonic handed me their practice schedule and said I’d be welcome to join in: they “can always use more percussionists!”
The Philharmonic has 4 shows a season, taking place during the school year, so they already had two performances last semester. The first practice for this next performance was on January 2nd, which featured a lovely ice storm, keeping many of the rather elderly musicians home that day. Still, I joined up with one other percussionist to do what I could.
Bear in mind that I haven’t done this since 2000! Since that time, I’ve played hand drums and drum set, but that involves improvisation almost exclusively. And when I’ve played guitar at various churches in the past 22 years, it’s been using chords on a sheet of paper. So yeah, reading musical notes isn’t something I’ve had to do much recently! It took me a bit to acclimate, remembering to circle tempo and time signature changes, writing notes to put down whatever I’m holding so I can go over and grab a triangle in time to play it for two notes, only to return back to whatever I was doing before.
It’s been fun so far, and I think I’m getting back into things relatively well. We’ve had 3 practices thus far, and I’ve run through my music with a practice pad at home (the same one I had back in high school!) so I’m at least a little prepared when I get there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely still making mistakes all over the place, but that’s why we practice, right?
One thing that’s taking me a bit to get used to is the difference between “high school band” and “community band.” Back in high school, it was a class one took, so everyone was there almost every day, and everyone had to practice at least a little bit because they were receiving a grade for their troubles. With a community band, it’s all volunteer, so you’re lucky if people open their music at all during the week – and you’re further lucky if all of the musicians are even present at each practice. The director is having to sing out various phrases of music because multiple key instruments aren’t there to carry the tune, for example.
Still, it’s a good opportunity to revisit a part of my life that I miss from time to time. Meg is playing bass in orchestra now, so I don’t have a huge connection to that, but she also started percussion in band this year, so now I can kind of brush up on my own history while hearing about how she’s traveling along the same path I did 30 years ago.
Time flies, right?