Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Wellsboro has a town band – The Almost-World Famous Wellsboro Town Band - someone said that having a town band was “sweet” and it is. One of the nice things about this band is that virtually anyone can join and play. Even a clarinet player who only played in 4th grade for one year and when our military family was transferred, the clarinet was not, so clarinet was no longer part of my life.

Until a friend in Colorado asked me if I wanted to join the New Horizons Band – I said I could not play – he said they would teach me and he would lend me his older clarinet. So, at age 60 or so, I became a clarinet player. And loved it! The first day, the band instructor – a very famous band instructor - taught me how to play middle “C” and middle “G” – he said the next time I came he would teach me a few more notes. Over two years, I practiced and played and learned and got better until I moved from Bronze Band to Silver and was invited into the night band. I vowed nothing would come between me and my clarinet (which by this time was a wood Buffet b flat clarinet). But, something did come between us. Seminary. I just could not practice and go to this demanding school full time. So, once again, the clarinet playing was gone from my life. But this time, my clarinet remaind part of my life and rode in my car (front seat) with me from Colorado to Pennsylvania.

In my playing history, cut time with accompanying eighths and sixteenths are somewhat beyond my level of expertise. Until I played in the Mansfield Field 4th of July parade last year (with the Rinky Dink Band) I had never played with music on a lyre. I had never played standing up. Our music in Colorado was more orchestral than march, frequently fast, but rarely calling on my inexperience for playing. When we needed a tremendous clarinet player, we had the band leader’s wife (their son plays first clarinet in NY Symphony Orchestra).

The music in the Wellsboro Town Band is beyond me. However, I learned something from a friend who rides her bike all over Colorado Springs. When she first started riding she joined a bike ride and going up a hill had to stop and walk. She told the leader of the ride that she could not make it up the hill – he said “keep riding.” Good advice. I will keep practicing – by next year, I will be better.

If asked why I bother with this difficult instrument, I would have to give this answer: Christmas Eve four years ago, the musician for the church I served did not show up for our morning worship. Plain quit. Without telling anyone. Having an evening service planned, I spent the day listening to Christmas music and downloading what appeared to be singable carols from iTunes. What a church musician adds that iTunes does not is keepping tempo with the congregation: the congregation could listen, but not sing with the music I downloaded.

That one event taught me that modern churches need music. In a pinch, I play the clarinet so at least we have a melody to follow. I expect that God does not care too much about our music. I can’t say the same for our members. Unless each hymn is one they have sung all of their lives, they cannot/will not sing without accompaniment. In the emerging church movement, music is newer with the musical message tweaked to fit our modern culture. In church we do the familiar, but I add the new, and play it often enough so that it becomes part of the culture of this “emerging” congregation.

There is another reason that I keep playing this challenging instrument: I love playing!

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