The snow is falling, visible in the cone of light from the streetlight. I am passing underneath, in a long coat, hat and scarf, carrying my clarinet in its rectangular case. I am walking from, not to, a music rehearsal. I am warm, thanks to my clothing, but in my soul also. I have just experienced a shared musical experience, a closeness in which I felt at ease, involving many individuals making an increasingly unified sound as we follow the score and the conductor.
We are all in grade school, and the instruments have not been in our hands for long. We are simultaneously working on breath control, counting, and reading the language of music on the printed page. Our conductor has tremendous patience, but he too was here once.
I am alone and content as I walk up my street, maybe humming a bit of one of our pieces. I’ve left behind the room with the brilliant wooden floors and the warm heat, knowing I’ll be back, as the ritual of individual practice and group rehearsal continues.
I’ve carried this scene in my head for years. I don’t know if it happened exactly like this, but it is real—as real as anything. It makes more sense to me now, and it is a window into my personality. I’m an introvert who enjoys social situations. Just as important, however, is the down time, the alone time—socializing takes my energy, and the recharge is essential.
Music is solitary and social. It is communication on another level, going beyond spoken language. It’s solace, comfort, challenge, frustration, reward, affirmation—and may it always be so. Music teaches me many things: how to count and be aware of rhythm, in everything from my steps to my heart; dynamics—when to be loud, when to be quiet; when to play, and when to rest. Music forges friendships that sustain.
The frequent scene now is a furnished basement. There are four adults, and the occasional grade-school spectator. There is no conductor, just our small ensemble, all around the same age, playing music broadly described as “rock.” I place my hands now on the bird’s-eye maple neck of an electric guitar. The music is in my mind, not on a page, so I may close my eyes. The boy under the streetlight is there, too.