If you’re a Facebook friend of mine you know I’ve been working on a pesky Shostakovitch piece, Dance 1, for this Sunday’s community band concert. It’s hard. Not the key it’s arranged in, or, really, any particular part of it, done at a manageable tempo. But this one is presto, which translates to really really really fast. Please click on the link above, it’s a YouTube post of a group playing the same arrangement we’ll be doing, a three minute and eleven second thrill ride.
I let this piece stress me out.
I’ve practiced many nights, starting at a slower tempo and working out difficult fingerings, going over and over passages until my fingers could remember what my eyes and brain couldn’t always coordinate. Every evening this past week I worked at a faster tempo.
I shouldn’t let playing music stress me. The whole idea behind a community band is to provide an opportunity for people to continue playing after school. People that aren’t professional musicians but who loved to play as young people have the chance to reconnect with others just like them, all working toward a common goal – make some music and have some fun.
In our band several generations are represented, and that’s special. We have people that some would label elderly and kids just getting their drivers licenses. This season I’m sitting between a tenth grade boy and a ninth grade girl. Sometimes the sheer drama of their lives overwhelms me. I’m not typically a lover of kids. Individually there have been some I really like, but mostly I think they’re best enjoyed at a healthy distance.
But here’s where this week’s smile comes from.
Tuesday was the last rehearsal before our concert. Everyone was pretty worried about this particular piece. When the conductor asked us to pull out Dance 1 we all took a collective deep breath. And then we began. One hundred fifty beats per minute, and the music just soared. The runs climbed and dipped, the trills thrilled, the beat pulsed. And when we got to the end of page four the conductor put her baton down and sort of hugged herself.
And she smiled.
In the back row of clarinets there were quiet grins and a few high fives. Kids on both sides of me sat back satisfied. The ninth grader told me she liked sitting back there with us. I told her I liked having her next to me too. The tenth grader, who generally doesn’t engage with me actually looked at me and smiled.
Music brought a whole bunch of disparate people together. Music made us all work hard for a common goal. Music made us all, for that moment, beyond happy.
Music made us smile.