In my time in the Muscle Shoals School System, I sat through many school assemblies. To this day I remember watching a muscular man rip apart a phone book, being repeatedly scared straight about drugs and alcohol, and watching an awkward black-and-white montage of famous African Americans to celebrate Black History Month every year.
While these required programs taught me a few lessons – well, except that phone book guy; I’ll never understand what that was about – none of them drove me to act until my last semester of elementary school.
I remember sitting by my then friend Mary who was excited about seeing her older sister who was in the group that was going to perform that day. At first I was just happy for my friend and wanted to be supportive of her sister, though I had no idea which person she was in the group. But when I heard the first sounds of instruments tuning up, I was instantaneously hooked.
When it came time to choose my electives for middle school, I had no problem – I was inspired by a single school assembly – a single performance by the Muscle Shoals High School jazz band. If you had asked me what I dreamt about then, I would have said, “I want to be a musician.” More specifically, I would have said “I wanted to play Clarinet,” because it “sounded and looked pretty.”
So when the time came for us to choose our instruments, I told the band director my wishes to play that wooden instrument with a reed, he smiled and let me try it.
As he held down the fingerings for some note, I attempted to form my interpretation of the correct mouth shape, or embouchure, to produce a sound.
What came out of the other end of that clarinet was not pretty. In fact, it was the worst sound I made that week while trying out instruments. High pitched, squeaky, and simply gross.
In the end, I ended up being placed in the trombone section. I knew nothing about the instrument except that it had a slide and was not a clarinet.
I don’t think I was ever completely devastated about not getting to play my first choice. In fact, I know I continued to try hard and be good at what I was handed.
Over the years, playing trombone has taught me more than just the instrument. It has taught me how to be patient (though I don’t consider myself a patient person), communicate, and appreciate the things I get, even if they weren’t what I originally wanted.
This sort of serendipity happens more and more as I grow. While it may not appear this way, I am not always given the things I ask for, but I think I have always known how to make lemons out of lemonade and work hard at the things I do get, or at least have learned to do so.
Here’s to more unexpected experiences in the future!