Tears, streaming down my face; so many tears.
As an eight-year-old, trying to overcome one of the most difficult challenges of clarinet playing, I could not imagine ever being able to get past 'the break'; it seemed impossible.
I would try and try, but nothing except squeaks would ever come out. I found it so frustrating that I could not get it. I had quickly managed to learn the low notes, but now trying to get to the next octave, felt like I was trying to climb a mountain.
“It’s okay … you’ll get there.”
I remember these words vividly from my father, who, at that time in my development, would sit with me to help with my practise, and encourage me when things became tricky; this was one of those moments. Just the sound of his voice helped me calm down, take some deep breaths, and try again.
My hands were little, and my little fingers could not stretch, or so it seemed. I could not figure how to play the note, I would blow harder, play louder, move my hands so I could reach better; but, nothing worked.
I could feel the tears running down my cheeks, I could not stop them; I put the clarinet down. I sat with my father who was trying to make me smile and relax through the tears. It took what felt like an eternity to stop them.
After I had stopped crying, I tried again; this time more relaxed and I played something that I really enjoyed. ‘Granite’, a toe-tapper that my father enjoyed, and would dance along to as I played; this brought us laughter. At one point in my learning, this was also challenging. My father said, “let’s try again”. I did, but I got another squeak, however, sounding more like a note this time.
“It’s okay … you’re nearly there.”
I was about to stop, and give up completely when I heard these words. It was true; the sounds were not quite squeaks anymore, they seemed almost like notes. I tried again; I refused to let the tears come back.
I took a deep breath and shut my eyes; I focused. Somehow, a note was heard, it was not the one I intended, but, it was not a squeak either. “Did you hear it?”, my father exclaimed; I did.
I smiled for the first time in what felt like hours; but in fact, it was only thirty minutes. I had managed it; what I thought was impossible, was now possible.
“Great! … Now, do it again!”
* * *
I cannot emphasise enough how important it was to have my father sit with me, patiently waiting, helping, and giving me words of encouragement. Do not forget the power of the words you say, as parents, and the impact it has on your children, while they are overcoming a hurdle in their learning.
Samantha graduated her music studies with honours at Colchester Institute, where she studied with clarinettist Charles Hine, and composer Jeffery Wilson. In high demand, Samantha has established herself as a clarinet and recorder tutor in Colchester founding Da Capo Academy with Dylan, in 2010. Previous faculty positions include Claydon High School, Sudbury Ormiston Academy and Suffolk One College.
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