Thursday, December 6, 2012

Musical Virtu-Not-So

Every now and then one of our children announces from out of the wild blue: "I want to learn to play the…_____________."

Fill in the blank:  Guitar, trombone, trumpet, bagpipes…

As someone who was born both tone-deaf and rhythm-dumb, Mrs. Snark's instinctive reaction is to cringe and say, "And are sure, dear? It's a LOT of hard work." If that particular scare tactic fails, then Mrs. Snark adds, "Well, you will have to give up your friends and all video games in order to practice for four hours a day until you master your craft."

Should scare tactic number #2 fail, then Mrs. Snark bites the bullet and begins the search for the cheapest possible decent quality instrument. The objective is to purchase something the child can actually practice on while minimizing the financial loss. For instance, my son's trumpet was purchased from a guy selling his wares out of a black van in a back alley that sped off with smoking tires the moment the cash transaction was completed.

Mrs. Snark, you see, greets each new child foray into the wonderful world of music with trepidation.

Not so with Mr. Snark. When one of the children announces even the slightest interest in music, Mr. Snark's eyes light up like bulbs on a Christmas tree. His throat gets tight and his head fills with visions of our child prodigy attending Juilliard (on scholarship, of course). Mr. Snark then digs out his classical vinyl albums so that the music of the instrument in question can be appreciated in its purest form.

Our latest encounter with would-be child musician has been The Middle Child and The Trumpet. The Middle Child has been devout at practicing his craft, I'll grant him that. Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that I promised him that he can awaken his older brother every morning with a Reveille blast—just as soon as he masters it. (When raising children, motivation is always important.)

The first week of trumpet practice proved particularly arduous. Sounds came from that instrument, but they were not those of music. No, those haunting wails more closely resembled the mating call of a bull moose. After a week, the neighbors called the police.

"Ma'am, we have a report that you've been torturing an elephant on the premises," said the nice officer who came to the door.

"No elephants here, sir," Mrs. Snark said with a blithe smile, opening the door wide. "I'd never keep an elephant without a permit. You're welcome to search if you like."

Remarkably, it's been three months now and my son is still diligent about practicing his craft, preparing for the day when he can master the Reveille tune. The other day a series of notes issued forth from the trumpet and I fell out of my chair.

"That was Jingle Bells!" Mrs. Snark exclaimed and got teary. "Boy, you're making music!"

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