Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Pick a note


Most of you know I play in a community band.  We practice on Tuesday nights.  Tonight I was feeling guilty for not practicing during the week, and tired from a crazy day at work.  I was thinking that maybe this one time it would be OK not to go to band.  But I had music my husband had pulled from the music library that the director had requested, and I couldn’t just drop that off and run.  So I stayed.

And I have to say, this evening, like every Tuesday night, I was glad I stayed to play.   I let the music pick up my spirits, enjoyed the challenge of getting a little bit better at the parts I should have practiced, heard new rhythms and underlying phrases of other sections,  figured out how some of it went together.  I always leave rehearsal feeling better than I did going in and there’s something worthwhile in that alone.

I’m so lucky to have this outlet, a place to let the rest of the world go and just have fun; I don’t think most adults can say they have something similar.  Certainly as we get older we get fewer opportunities to do something that other people actually applaud for.   Music does that for me and don’t think for a minute I don’t appreciate it.   Even when our audience is small I appreciate the fact they come out and clap enthusiastically.  It makes those of us playing feel young again, makes us smile, makes us glad we could share the fun we get to enjoy every Tuesday night.

Tonight she handed out a new piece of music, something unique, with sounds not classical or jazz or rag.  It is called “Africa:  Ceremony, Song and Ritual” composed by Robert W Smith.  You can listen to it here.  It’s almost 9 minutes but worth the time.


At about 46 seconds in you’ll hear a weird sound, hard to describe, sort of like a metal whistle but not.  Our tympani player is a high school student,  and this instrument was in his part but he didn’t know what it was.  The director found it for him, and he asked how to play it.  It’s a metal rectangle with a piece sticking up and a wire of some sort.  I can’t say I got a good look at it.  She told him how to play it, he tried it out and then he grinned from ear to ear the whole rest of the piece.  It was so neat to see a high school student enthralled with learning something new.  I talked to him about it at the break, as he was practicing different effects out in the hall.  He said it was dangerous, you could get your finger caught in it.  I said it was dangerous because if it got played at the wrong moment everyone would know.  He started laughing and said that was true about everything he played.  Good point.

But the part in my music that made me stop, almost made me laugh out loud in the middle of rehearsal was this.  Do you see it?  At measure 180?


It says ‘pick a note.’   This is what went through my mind the first time we got to this measure:  “Pick a note?  What note?  Should it be in the key we’re in?  Probably not, probably it should be something weird, totally out of character.  What would that be?”

It took me so long to analyze those three words that I missed playing anything at all during the two measures.  As did most of the band.  We all sort of petered out as our minds tried to comprehend that we could choose any note we wanted.  For two whole measures we were free, and what we ended up doing was nothing much at all.  I’m sure by next week we will have all chosen our note and the sound will be…well…interesting.  On the recording these two measures start at 8 minutes and 37 seconds.  You can decide for yourselves how strange and/or cool it sounds.

See?  This is the kind of fun we have on Tuesday nights.  We get to do different things, interact with different people.   I wish everyone could do something just for themselves once a week.  The world would be a better place.

Indulge yourselves.  Find your passion.  Grow a little, learn a little, meet a few more interesting people.  You won’t be sorry.

And I promise, if I can get there, I’ll come clap for you.

Imported Photos 00016


Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

20 thoughts on “Pick a note

  1. I think it’s especially important to have something uniquely yours, something fun and fulfilling, when you are working at a full time job. You really need that satisfaction that a job too seldom gives. I had a major problem finding me time when I worked and I guard it ferociously now.


  2. I often think it is one of the greatest gifts you can have – to be able to sing or to play a musical instrument….I can do neither 🙂


  3. Sounds so great I’m going to rush off and share with friends. PICK a note, indeed! That’s so much more hair-raising than picking any KEY on a laptop!


  4. Mommy helps her niece with the trombone at home. Anyway, one of her niece’s piece for school had “pick a note”. It was supposed to be in a song where it sounded like a railroad train blowing it’s horn. So when Mommy was helping practice, she always played the note that was drawn in. Mommy’s niece had to keep telling her — don’t play that note! You have to pick a different one!

    Old habits die hard. Mommy kept playing the note that was drawn in. And Mommy’s niece was all bent out of shape — stop playing that note! (As you can see — I think Mommy’s niece is more of a teacher to Mommy than the other way around!)

    So, finally, Mommy got it. And when it came to that part — she tried to hit the lowest note on the Trombone that she could and it didn’t even sound like a note — it sounded like a farting sound.

    Anyway — Mommy ended up going back to playing the note that was drawn in — since she obviously can’t improvise!


  5. Sometimes the most important thing is just to get up and go do. It generally turns out well.

    Pick a note . . . I can just see myself paralyzed by indecision. But no. B-flat. I pick B-flat.


    • I agree. If you do the thing you don’t want to do it very often turns out pretty darn great. B-flat IS one of my favorite notes….especially since I play the B-flat clarinet. Hmmmm…


  6. I give myself one dog free hour a week at yoga class, and I LOVE it. Our instructor is wise and experienced, she always teaches us something new. I go home feeling like I’m walking on air.

    Agility class is my second release. Some days, I don’t feel like making the long drive, but once I’m there, I’m always glad I went. There is always cheering and laughing going on there.

    Both places, I get to destress and remove myself from the everyday stuff. Life is good.

    So what note are you going to pick? I’m a big fan of b notes 🙂


  7. I’ve tried yoga…not a fan so far…I like the idea of it, but there I felt overweight and sloppy. Maybe will try again. Liked agility too but it wasn’t a release for me, and Katie was so scared of so much. Music which is non-dog, non-work is my best thing.

    I haven’t decided what note to play for those measures yet….B’s are good…we’ll see. Stay tuned. I know the suspense is killer.


  8. So many people never “find their passion,” Dawn, and I imagine their lives are the sadder for it. You’re fortunate that music is yours. That’s something we can do even as we grow older (which we all eventually do!) What a creative spirit Mr. Smith has, letting musicians choose which note they want to play — bet that’s going to sound memorable, ha!


  9. I love the comments almost as much as the piece you wrote, Dawn! B-flat…..that’ll work, as long as it isn’t Be-flatulent!! that story of trombone improv cracked me up too! It’s interesting that the band will sort of think out what works in the free space. it’ll still beneat, as that’s part o huprise…i admmire any d


  10. I love the comments almost as much as the piece you wrote, Dawn! B-flat…..that’ll work, as long as it isn’t Be-flatulent!! that story of trombone improv cracked me up too! It’s interesting that the band will sort of think out what works in the free space. it’ll sti


  11. wow! i’m kind of a techno-dummy, as you can see! what i meant to finish with was, I admire anyone who has acquired a discipline (or artistry), and it’s even more interesting to think of a whole band wrestling with confronting freedom within it….this discipline…fascinating….sorry for teteno-dummery!


    • Not a problem Michelle…I think I can fix it and put them all together, but I don’t mind them the way they are! 🙂 I agree…it takes a lot of a band to realize they are free for a few moments, after years and years of discipline.


  12. What about a b sharp? (I play a C instrument.)

    Liked by 1 person

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