Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weather or Not

Last Saturday, the orchestra rehearsed all afternoon and then dismissed only to return again for the concert a few short hours later. Because most of the horn section traveled to get there and would be left wandering Small Town(s) looking for grub during the hours in between, our principle who lives here invited us all to his house for dinner. That used to be the custom, apparently, years before I ever joined. It was nice to sit around the table with these people who were mostly strangers to each other and share a meal and conversation.

One of the players is a graduate student from U. of Akron who talked about her horn teacher and the odd insights he provided during lessons. He would say things like, "Horn playing is like going to Las Vegas. There's no guarantee of any payoff—it's a crap shoot." That's something my own teacher said for years. And he told her, "Horn playing is like the weather. Sometimes it's sunny, and sometimes it rains, and there isn't a thing you can do about."

I took that bit of wisdom back to the concert with me and hoped for clear, blue skies.

I know horn playing really can be a temperamental prospect, but I get the feeling playing any musical instrument well comes with similar risks of highs and lows, hits and misses. And what's more, I think the same rule is true no matter your vocation or occupation or pastime. One day you're on, and the next you aren't.

You can only do so much to ward off the unexpected inclemency. Sometimes all you can do is keep a weather eye on the horizon and take shelter. You ride it out, holding on for dear life and waiting for the funnel cloud to dissipate or move on. And then you dry off, dig out and look up for a less hostile environment.

You're not completely helpless against this fickle mischief, though. We have mittens and galoshes, scarves and fans for just such occasions; and without them, we'd be left naked against the elements. The trick is to keep your arsenal fully stocked and in good repair. That umbrella with the broken spokes will do you no good in a downpour with high winds to boot, and that skimpy slicker that couldn't keep out a raindrop for anything might as well wrap a tuna.

Well, I can only take this metaphor so far before it becomes completely ridiculous. So, make hay while the sun shines, and if you sense a storm brewing, figure out which way the wind blows, but never spit in it.

Somebody stop me.

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