I canceled my horn lesson for today because, to be frank, I have a bladder infection. The other day, I mentioned to a friend that I would never talk about the nature of my ailment with my horn teacher, but I don't mind telling all of you.
Last Monday, I braved it and went to this lesson which is almost an hour away from home. My plan was to use the potty as soon as I arrived at the art building, but my teacher was waiting for me at the main door. The college is closed this time of year, so he has to personally let his students in the locked doors. I could have excused myself before the lesson started, but being shy about that sort of thing, I decided to suck it up and go ahead with the lesson first thing. "Suck it up" is probably not the appropriate phrase in this situation. "Hold it in" is better, so I held it in and marched straight for the tiny lesson room, one with very little air circulation and walls that close in on you after ten minutes.
My horn lessons are conducted standing up. Standing apparently allows the player to be freer and more expressive with the horn, and personally, I play cleaner when I stand than when I sit. The sound doesn't get muffled like when I play with the bell of my horn resting on my leg. That's a good thing, but when you've got an issue, like needing to use the toilet and are afraid to mention it, you don't care so much if the music you're making sounds like silky air or more like mud. And when your teacher is encouraging you to produce more sound and add umph to the forte passages, you aren't so much inspired to play with gusto as you are to pack up and run, or maybe just run without stopping to pack.
I recently read David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and in it he tells a story about using a leg bag, the Stadium Pal, as a personal accessory. I was thinking during last week's lesson that I could have used a Stadium Pal myself, some sort of Lesson Pal. I could have doubled the length of my lesson without worry had I had a catheter, but as it was, before the hour was up, I was actually ill with slight dizziness, a headache, and what felt like a fever. I slumped down into the chair and asked to be excused before working on the last piece of music on the stand.
I used to sit during my horn lessons. It was a concession my teacher made on account of my age. All of his other students are either in high school or college and can stand for hours on end and play all day if they want to. They don't have bothersome sciatica troubles or swollen ankles from poor circulation, and they haven't learned to whine quite as well as I have. That will come with age and experience, I suppose. I am the token middle-aged student, so I get to sit, although recently I have agreed to stand up and play like I mean it.
There are some instruments you can play while crossing your legs. The guitar is one of them, and I suppose the flute. I know a couple of old guys who play the clarinet with their legs crossed, and they are both very good. They both have flowing, white hair and long, skinny legs, and when you hear them play, you don't think about how their sound or their musicianship would be improved with better posture. If I were to sit for my horn lessons and try to play with my legs crossed, my teacher would not think I had taken on an eccentric quirk. He would have a fit, I am sure of it, and make me stand immediately.
While I managed to make it through last weeks' lesson without an embarrassing episode, I would rather not repeat that experience today. So, I will take one more day to recover from this unpleasant infection. And when I practice my horn later today, I'll probably sit, although with good posture and without a catheter. Here is David Sedaris reading his essay on The David Letterman Show: