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I play a Stringed Flute

Posted by Freischutz on Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday was my first official day of highschool.


Drew this picture to describe it.

A picture says a thousand words. You could save time, just look at the picture, and not read the thousand words.


I am just a little freshman. Little freshman. I'll be a late sophomore or junior before I'm old enough to drive. I don't know anyone, not a soul. Trying to hang in there but the first day didn't turn out so well.

I sat down in the room for concert band... watched the thirteen others come in. Apparently they had training all through gradeschool, it looked like. My tiny gradeschool had not a single class in it that promoted the playing of musical instruments. (music teacher was a real bum)

So I was entirely self-taught, learned the hard way, played on poor instruments, hardly musically literate, sitting amid these people. These, these Mozarts.

Mr. McCreary goes around asking us what we play, tapping on his computer, mostly without even looking up to address us. I hear alto sax, percussion, tuba, trumpet, clarinet.

You could have imagined the fear in me when I said, "guitar, violin, banjo, accordion."

Did he get kids every year that told him this? They played these entirely foreign, useless instruments(most notably the last two)? Or was he just expectant of the unexpected. I don't know. He wasn't even surprised.

"I'm sorry, but you are in the wrong class. There are no scores written for any of the instruments that you play. We'll talk after class."

At this point I nodded but inside I was just about ready to cry. There was no orchestra in the school, I knew that. Just band. Mostly wind instruments. I am no good at winds, and if I picked up one there would be no time for the aforementioned instruments which I love.

So, after class, we do talk. He explains that the composers didn't score for these instruments (uhm, violin? excuse me?) and he offers me to start in Beginning Band if I'd like to learn to play a wind instrument. That or I could contanct the course-councelor or whatever and change classes if I wanted to. Runs off a massive list of wind instruments which he could teach me but tears were welling up in my eyes. I just nodded without looking up and said I'd think about it, and tried to get out of there as fast as I could.

After that I was late for every single class following. Did I mention I was the only girl in the entire school who was wearing slacks. Very much so. I was expecting a uniform police to pull me over.

At lunch their electronics system was screwed and they could not find my pre-paid card. I didn't have any money with me. "Sorry, dear." Yeah, I bet. It was so embarrassing.

I was so upset at this point and I am not even quite sure why. Wasn't sure then either but I was. Couldn't put from my mind the thoughts of being eternally separated from the violin and my other instruments by the rest of my schoolwork. Indeed, there would be no time for it. I went tearful right there in front of God and everybody, though I doubt many noticed me. I hope.

Mr. McCreary did, though (unfortunately). "Haven't you just soiled your feathers," I was thinking. What an embarrassment, as a first impression. He buys me lunch but I end up being too sick to eat anything (I have anxiety neurosis and I believe I'd forgotten to take my medicine that morning). While I am standing in the middle of the lunchroom he tried to explain something to me... it was so loud I could hardly hear him. Something about "rethought it," that was about all I got. Then he asks me what instruments I play again. I had to yell it. I distinctly remember it sounding like a distressed cow or something of that nature. Still yet I spent the rest of the lunch period sniveling puerilely. The rest of the day was not focused on class but spent trying to keep from tearing up.

Finally the bell rings and I get out to the parking lot as soon as I can and try to get on the bus unseen so I can just cry, silently. Nope. I see a white head roving around and there is no place to hide. Genuinely thouht about running back into the school and hiding in the janitor's closet for thirty minutes or so, at least until he thought I was gone. Tried to act passive, keep head down, pull flatcap over eyes, but he must have noticed pants+long brown hair ≠ boy, = BM. Yeah, he'd been out there, looking for me. Kind of... weird.

What do you want, I thought as he approached me. Though he'd done nothing wrong to me.

So here he says that he wants me to bring in my violin on Monday. He's been thinking about it a lot ever since I left class. I'd have to hit the notes very accurately, but he could put me in the flute section. The highest note I'd be able to go would be F# on the E, but the rest were the same. Figure out the bowing yourself.

Yeah, that's nice and all, but-

The original pieces we play were scored for the orchestra. We've replaced the different stringed instruments by winds. The violin parts were always played by the flutes, since their ranges are similar. Putting you in there would be no trouble, if you can do it.

What was I supposed to say? In the parking lot? Could I run to the bus and say "step on it, lady!"

Okay, Mr. McCreary. Violin on Monday, yeah, don't forget the rosin.

(I'll forget my bow or my chromatic tuner)

(Music teachers seem to find the electronic tuner annoying. At least my old one, the bum, did)

Thurday night I was too tired to think about any of it. Went staight to bed. The entire earlier part of today, though, was spent in traumatizing anxiety. Chucked down some dramamine to try to put myself out, binge ate, fooled around with my ugly violin. None of it worked.

Eventually I was forced to indulge in a little talk with Mother about all of it. No other person in my family is the least bit musical, not even mum. I was trying to explain. I am self-taught. McCreary just isn't getting it. I don't sight-read well. Gotta have it overnight. I know little musical theory. I may be doing many things entirely wrong, I've never had anyone to correct me. I've never really played in a group. When I did, it didn't work out too well.

On top of this I don't know anybody at St. Pius, don't have the experiance of a nice 8th grade, don't know this, don't know that, blah blah blah blah.

"But look at what you can do. At what you've done."

For quite a many hour my answer was "nothing right". And I was quite convinced of myself! Ruined my first day of school, ruined the entire four years of school.

But after a while I reconsidered. I may not sight-read well or know much musical theory, but I can play by ear. I've developed it over years of teaching myself, of listening to others and recordings and trying to play with them. I can improvise. I can listen to a piece, give me a minute and I'll figure the key, learn the harmony and feel the chord progression. Give me more time and I can copy the solo, if it is not too complex (no heavy composite harmony-melody patterns. Sorry, I have no correct word for it, no music-theory classes) and I can hear it well. If it is too complex for me to recreate exactly or I can't hear it I can mimic it with less complicated patterns. I have no theory but it's there, somewhere. I can feel it.

Now just what you would ever need that for in a band class, I'm not sure. Why ever a violin would look -or sound- good in the flute section is beyond me. I am writing McCreary a letter explaining all of my faults and my one good point, and the expicit directions to immediatly give me the boot if:

*immediate sight-reading is a problem

*my playing is too poor

*I disrupt the other players

*I make a fool out of myself (well, I already have, so I guess I can mark that off)

*If the violin (as I strongly suspect) just doesn't sound good in an all-winds band.


Oh well. I suppose I've gotten a little confidence but not much. I can play him a few tunes if he asks. And you can bet I won't need to look at  sheet music to do so. Maybe eventually I'll look back on Thursday and laugh.

Well, I've bored you long enough, if any of you have managed to read it all. Thank you and keep me in your prayers- you all are in mine.


BM Hndrsn., "Der Freischütz "


11 comments on “I play a Stringed Flute”

mudbug Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @3:27:38 AM

Is this a marching band or concert band? Hopefully it's concert. Flute section, huh? I would have thought it fit more with the clarenet section. You might grab a copy of the clarenet part and see which you like better. This could be good for your reading ability. Great practice and will teach you the rudiments of orchestra. Look at it as an opportunity to grow. Lucky you!

Freischutz Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @6:43:02 AM

It is concert band. I can just see myself jabbing people with my bow. "Sorry. Sorry." Nobody else really does much moving, except in their fingers. The violin is so energetic. All the spectators will be staring at me because I'm just a'jumping around, swingin' that arm, hitting people. Besides the fact that it'll be "Oh my gosh, look at that! A violin in a wind band!" If it all works out and I stay in.

OTJunky Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @6:44:53 AM

I dunno. I think you and your teacher ought to spend some time thinking this through.

The rules of folk music are quite different from those of band and orchestral music. If you have already taught yourself to play fiddle, banjo and guitar by ear you have a right to take some considerable pride in that. But I don't know how much of that skill is directly applicable to playing band music. Band music is written for wind instruments - a mix of compositions written for bands and adaptations of some portions of the classical orchestral repertoire. I think that to learn and play that on a violin will probably require some guidance from some violin player who already knows how to do it. Trumpets are pitched in Bb. Alto saxophones are pitched in Eb. To accommodate this the flute and clarinet parts often wind up in the flat keys. And there will be passages where shifting into at least the 2nd and 3rd position is required. It's really hard to figure all that out on your own. So if your teacher doesn't know anything about stringed instruments you could hit a brick wall or two.

I think you have to ask yourself what you're really trying to do here. Most school band programs are about teaching students something about how to make music together in large ensemble, providing some introduction to classical music, supporting the football program with a marching band, and supporting the community with the same marching band in parades and some community functions. In most schools, the band program, is as much a social activity as a musical activity.

In this case it sounds like your teacher's a good hearted man who's trying to find a way accommodate your needs. But if he doesn't know much about stringed instruments, he may not understand what he's asking you to do. I don't think you'll be marching with your fiddle in the hot sun or playing marches with in the football stadium in below freezing temperatures.

I notice you list penny whistle as one instrument you fool around with - maybe an interest in Irish tunes? If so, you might consider learning to play a real flute. It'll take you some time to fully occupy even "third chair" in the band. But, once done you'll be integrated with the band, you'll have a teacher who can help you learn to play it, and you can learn to play Irish tunes on it that'll help you understand Irish fiddling.

Just my two cents. Do you what you want and good luck with it.

As an aside, for a 14 year old you have a remarkable talent for expressing yourself in writing. Don't let that school beat you down. You've quite a future ahead of you.


Humbled by this instrument Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @8:13:53 AM

GReat post! (However probably not so great going through the experience at the time.) You'll learn from events like this and come back all the stronger. We've all been there. As I read I thought, "I'd try the band thing though I hate Eb and F. Yet I'd first write out a list of my demands. 1) The instructor AND the rest of the class will address me as "The Honourable Freishutz" (and they can call each other by first name.) 2)When I arrive for class, the rest of the class shall sit upright and in unison crisply and gladly announce, "The Honourable Freishutz, how nice of you and your splendid violin to grace our classroom!" 3) Only music of which I approve shall be played." Etc.

fiddleiphile Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @8:56:31 AM

Your band director wants you in the flute section because the flute is a C instrument, like violin or piano. (no need to transpose the music to a different key) I commend him for trying to find a place for you. Remember it is probably just as wierd for him as you feel it is for you. You might try to meet him half way and see what happens. (maybe very cool) It might be a unique way to learn more about yourself and the capabilities of your instrument. Don't give up withqut a TRY. You just might just miss out on a huge oppertunity.

fiddleiphile Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @9:04:09 AM

As a musician, you will walk through the valley of the shadow of death many times, It rareley kills you.

KCFiddles Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @12:36:22 PM

You seem pretty bright. Maybe you can learn something earlier than I did:

First, everything that I was ever afraid of has happened to me, including a lot of stuff that you would think was absolutely horrible, and some that I just barely lived through. I'm still here, happier than ever, stronger than ever, and pretty much fearless, 'cause I know there's nothing that I can't handle, no matter how unpleasant. Very little was as bad as I thought it would be, especially in the long run, and even the worst, short of death, was bearable and made me stronger, eventually.

The other really important thing is, as Marcus Aurelius so aptly put it: [b]"The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it."[/b] Found that out the hard way, too. Eventually changed my attitude and changed my life, profoundly. Still got plenty of adversity, but it doesn't keep me from being happy, and I don't stress out about anything, except perhaps life and death.

I hope you remember this. Might not seem to mean much now, but I think you'll get it, sooner or later.

Might want to read Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations", and Derek Lin's translation of the "Tao Te Ching". There's a reason they've been popular for thousands of years. Good stuff!

Anxiety, anger, worry, envy are all a HUGE waste of time and energy.

Good luck with band, and whatever you do, have fun, and don't worry!

lawrence lamear Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @1:10:59 PM

Some very sound advice from the posters above, Bailey. See what you can work out in advance with your teacher, expectations and what-not...just so you two are on the same page. If it doesn't work out, don't take it the next semester.

Now, that being said...

I don't believe what I'm reading here...Is this der Freischut-er that threatened to shoot me plumb across the state of Missouri, the one who threatened to "bust a cap in my posterier?" The one who told me "don't make me will die?" What is THIS CRAP I'm a-readin' here Miss Bailey?

Now, quit yer whinin' and a-snivelin, dust your butt off, and come out swinging girl! Remember, yer the one that cleared them Philistine foxes out o' the henhouse with one swipe of her mighty bow across her fiddle. Yer the girl that makes musical instruments talk...kin THEY do that? Harrumph!

Now, you got more talent in yer pinky than all them Philistines have combined. You are the pride, nay,
the JEWEL of Missour-ah. Doncha back down from nothin'...doncha be skeered of NOBODY!

Now what's the one animal our state of Missour-ah is known for...why, the mule. The most NOBLE of all the animals. Hard-working from sun-up to sun-down, sure-footed, WAY more intelligent than any horse.
Stubborn too. And if ya cross them? Why, they will kick the livin' snot out o' them that offended them.

And that's what I want you to be like, Miss like that noble mule. Work hard, stubborn-like, even.
Be smart as you approach problems. And if anyone causes you grief? Why you just rear back, and give them a good ol' thumpin' on their noggin that'll lift their hat clear off their haid!

We done raised ya right, here on the FHO, Miss Bailey...we don't raise no quitters. No sirree, Bob. An' we don't fail either. We merely have obstacles we overcome. Monday mornin', you come out a-swingin.
Yer the Annie Oakley of the FHO, remember? MAKE US PROUD, GIRL!!!

Freischutz Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @3:24:36 PM

OTJ, perhaps I know a little more than what I said. I've figured out a lot of it on my own or by reading online intruction. Keys with lots of flats are harder for the violin but I am pretty sure I could do it, with my natural ear for tones (hmm, maybe it will come in handy after all). McCreary is a musical genius. He can play just about anything he picks up. He has experience with strings. He once tried to start an orchestra but there was never enough people. If he put me in band and didn't show too much concern I suppose it must not be too considerably difficult to adjust myself to playing with the alien winds.
Even if it is really hard that will just make me want to conquer it more, and therefore makes better chances of me being able to pull it off. I'm typically not an "I quit" person. That is why I picked up some of the hardest instruments to play. It's not fun unless it's hard, challenging.
I do not play entirely by ear, nor am I learned entirely by it. I read sheet music for accordion and violin and whatnot, tab for banjo. But like I said, I'm not too good of a sight reader. If I can take the piece home for the evening I'm fine on it the next morning, but the flames burn inside when someone puts a piece in front of me and says "play it".

I do not see myself picking up a wind, even though I do fool with the pennywhistle. I said, "fool with". Pick it up maybe once every month or so just to blow off a couple things. By ear. I have no idea how one accomplishes that circular-breathing business. In five minutes I'm lightheaded and blue in the face! And the pennywhistle is only, what, nine inches long? Nah.
Besides that I really do not take any pleasure in playing winds. There is none of the passion that I feel when I play on strings, none of that difficult, lovely sound of resonation and wood. I have always thought of woodwinds as having an almost a "jealous" sound. Like I said, I'd have to put down everything else if I went for wind. Strings are my things.
The oddest thing about it was that McCreary did not ask if I wanted to do this, it was more of a "do it". I'm his experiment now, I guess. It was a nice thing for him to do, anyway, to give me a chance. I gave him full authority to excommunicate me from band if it just doesn't work out. If it doesn't sound right, or I can't play it right.

Thanks for the pep talk, Lawrence. And woodwiz, too.

Freischutz Says:
Saturday, August 18, 2012 @3:34:16 PM

By the way, sorry to say I'm not really a fiddle player. I like the "violin" style, always taken a lot more interest in its history, majesty, difficulty. Classical and baroque music. But every so often I do play folk on it.
Anyway, I don't think we'll be doing much marching in concert band! Trying to visualize how that might look with a violin, just for the thought..

I'm getting ready to buy a new violin, luthier-direct. Time for an upgrade. I'll show you all when it comes in. This luthier has some really gorgeous ones... looking and sounding.

GodblesstheUSA Says:
Sunday, August 19, 2012 @8:32:08 PM

I don't know whether to say congrats or condolances...I give you both, though. Everyone I know says that highschool is really hard. I believe them. I agree with Lawrence, though. Be a mule. Like my older brother. ; ) Perhaps not just like that, but close. Hang in there. Don't give up, Freischutz; no matter what. Der Freischutz, Das harte Mdchen, die Arcade Jungfrau (courtesy of Bing Translate, thank you very much). ; ) Stick to your guns. Try memorizing these: Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 41:10.
I've never attended school myself, but I know what that's like, not knowing anyone at all. A little fish in a big pond. Try and think of it in the context of this rather unexplicable, understated fact: the world is a big place. It's also a place for you to explore. And everyone that you see is a potential friend, a person that God has given you for a reason. Just be careful, though. You probably already know that kids can be brutal.
I know that you'll do awesome, Bailey. I just know it. One of the hardest things to do?? Trust the teacher. : ) It's really hard to step off into the sea of the unknown, the chasm of the guinea pig, if you will. But, as Benjamin Franklin said, "He that can have patience can have what he will." Just wait a little bit. It might take a little while to get into the swing of things, playing with flutes and all, and sight-reading may be kind of hard, but when sailing the aforementioned chasm, the sea calms after a while. The more you practice doing it, the better you'll get at it, both playing with flutes, and reading sheet music. Be patient. Soon you'll be fiddling them out of the room. : ) I know it. And I'll be praying for you.

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