by Amy Rever-Oberle, Band Director
Whether direct or indirect, there are many musical representations of the concept of “joy.” You can probably think of a few of either example quickly. Pieces or moments that you can’t help but smile. That raise the hair on the back of your neck. Maybe they even bring about stealthy onion chopping miscreants and you suddenly find yourself with teary eyes. Sometimes, all of these things hit you at once.
I’d like to submit another example of pure (cacophonous) musical joy though. (Not recommended for listening through headphones!) This is a combination of the very first sounds a new generation of musicians made together on their mouthpiece last week.
These same students are the ones who listened in disbelief as I explained that the musicians playing on the orchestral pops station I had as background music on Day 1, had their very own Day 1 of playing their instrument. Those musicians had to learn that your hands face two different ways when playing flute or that the flat side of the reed matches with the flat side of the mouthpiece. It’s awfully hard to imagine yourself playing your favorite movie music or a famous theme you recognize when you don’t know how to open your case without dumping your instrument on the floor yet.
I had the good fortune to join a community based ensemble of music professionals this year. It was a great reminder of the joy to be found when sitting on the other side of a baton, but it was also a reminder of how much I needed to practice! I constantly oscillated between being thrilled to perform a few pieces I’d still never played (Hello, Suite of Old American Dances and First Suite in Eb!) and desperately not wanting to embarrass myself in front of my very talented colleagues.
Just like millions before them, these students will feel that same special joy and thrill while playing Hot Cross Buns for the first time as I did playing some of my favorites or that you have experiencing yours. They haven’t yet hit the point where they’re hypercritical of every detail of their sound though, mostly because they don’t know better. They’re just playing their instruments and having fun!
Because my start on flute was not one anybody would connect with anything joyful in relation to music, I often share my early experiences with my students. As a fourth grader, I was one of the youngest in an after school enrichment program and didn’t have band yet as a part of my regular school day. This meant that I was very behind my much more seasoned 5th and 6th grade friends and it lead to a lot of frustration and tears, including in front of said friends at practice. It was weeks before I could find the sweet spot on my flute without a mirror, individual coaching from my teacher, and many more frustrated tears. Once it clicked though, I was off and running, and when it was shared with me that band teachers get to (not have to) learn all of the instruments, I was hooked!
Though we may have different connections to music now, the fact remains that whether our joy in music comes from being a performer, teacher, enthusiast, or a combination of all of the above, we all had a Day 1. In honor of this next front of up and coming musicians, it would be wonderful to hear some of your early stories! Please share in the comments or add your story to our digital wall, and help inspire the newest generation of instrumentalists!
After earning her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Wayne State University, Amy spent seven years as the K-12 Band and Music teacher in a rural district before moving to her current position as the 6th-8th Band Teacher at Hart Middle School in Rochester Hills, MI. She earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Oakland University in 2015 and is currently in her tenth year of teaching. Amy has shared about social media and technology use at the Michigan Music and ArtsFirst! Conferences. When not teaching, talking about teaching, or learning about teaching, Amy enjoys spending time with her family and walking their two rescue mutts. She also blogs semi-regularly on her site The Noisy Room Down the Hall. You can connect with Amy on Twitter too @amylynnrever.