Baptism by Fire

Over the years I’ve had plenty of experiences having to learn new things under time pressures and out of urgent necessity. While this is never the preferred way to learn, it can be pretty effective. And I’ve been lucky enough to have survived them all. One of the least-dislikedfondest, was how I got started playing trombone.

I joined band in high school as a freshman. Not having much experience with any band instruments, I got assigned bass drum and quickly was up to speed, albeit with an aching back. I continued in the drum section into sophomore year and had started dabbling in toms and snares. But our drum section was well endowed with other, more-talented players and some other areas were underrepresented. My band director, ever vigilant, convinced some of us to switch to other instruments to meet the needs of the program.

Winds be like, "I can still play" (showing a damaged reed on a clarinet)

Near the end of marching band season, I started learning clarinet. But it wasn’t long before I decided I didn’t like it. Too squeaky and reed maintenance was way to fussy for me. Somewhere around late Winter, I think, my director let me switch to trombone. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. Besides, the only good trombone player in the band was a senior and the band was going to need more trombone or baritone players soon….in my mind, next year.

I was playing trombone at infrequent practices and lessons but, being a slacker, I wasn’t doing much to get up to speed. Those days, when I did expend effort on practicing music, I think it was mostly focused on something cooler, playing rock and metal music on my guitar.

Close to the end of the school year, I showed up to a lesson and the band director gave me the news: I was going to have to learn a part including a trombone solo in the next two weeks. Rich, the senior trombone player, was doing something college-prep related and was going to be out of town for the new class orientation performance.

Continue reading “Baptism by Fire”