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The Time My Musical Ambitions Were Crushed

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments


In 5th grade, my whole class was required to join either band or orchestra. My sister was in the marching band, and so I picked band along with pretty much everyone else I knew. Only the super smart or the super nerdy seemed to pick orchestra, at least to my cruel little mind. This was the same reasoning that led me to take Spanish instead of Latin (though I have no regrets about that one).

Our band director was named Mr. Biershank, which caused endless giggles amongst the 11-year-olds in his care. Beavis and Butthead-like chuckles echoed throughout the band room. “Beer”…hehehehe…”Shank”…uuuh-huh-huh-huh.

I chose the play the drums since they were kickass, though the reality fell far short of my expectations. I rented a drum kit with a single practice drum pad and a small xylophone. The drum pad was tiny and the opposite of a loud, cool snare drum. Tapping on it with the tips of my sticks sounded like light rain on a spring day. I wanted to create a tornado, or a hurricane. My practicing was often mistaken for the sounds of our cat running around. The xylophone was similarly disappointing since we never once got to use it in class. I also already knew how to play the thing since we had been playing marimbas and glockenspiels since 2nd grade, and I had been learning the piano since kindergarten.

I’d smack the drum pad as hard as I could, trying to get it to sound like an instrument instead of a pillow. I was pretty dedicated to my drum studies, practicing on a daily basis and learning all the correct musical drum notation. I yearned to play on a real drum kit, or smash some cymbals together, but I tried to content myself with the simple snare for now.

I was chosen as a soloist for our winter concert, which would feature Christmas and other holiday songs. I was to play the drum solo for “Up On the Rooftop,” and I had it down cold. Despite the fact that soloing on a single snare drum is pretty boring, I was ridiculously excited for it. My mom dressed me in a supremely 80s ensemble for the occasion: black velvet leggings, a Seinfeld-esque puffy shirt, riding boots, and a teased side ponytail. Oh, yeah…I was ready!

However, the evening of my drum debut was marred by the fact that every other drummer in the band was a snotty juvenile delinquent. I was a nerdy, studious child, but everyone else in my section had joined just because they wanted to hit things as hard as they could. If not each other, then they would settle for beating massive bass drums. I was the only girl, and was outnumbered by pre-pubescent boys surging with hormones for the first time.

Within moments of Mr. Biershank starting the concert, the drum section erupted into chaos.

Sticks and drums went everywhere, cymbals crashed to the floor, and boys fell down in a tangle as they tried to gouge out each other’s eyes with their drumsticks. I retreated to the back, clutching my sticks to my chest as I tried to avoid the rampage. It was like wild animals had been let loose, and after a few painful measures, Mr. Biershank stopped the concert.

“Drums, put down your sticks and sit on your hands!” He had forbidden the entire section from playing for the rest of the concert. My parents sat quietly in the bleachers, pained looks on their faces. As I realized that I wouldn’t be able to play at all for my parents, I started to cry. The other drummer boys cheered and began noisily chatting to each other as they sat down. I squatted in silence, and shot angry looks at the boys. They began to make fun of my tears, and I was moments away from launching myself at the nearest one and beating him to a pulp.

Mr. Biershank started the concert again, sans drums. I was despondent, and hardly even listened to the rest of the band. I tapped a drumstick idly on the floor as song after song went by. Eventually, it was time for the soloists, though I figured I’d no longer be performing. Mr Biershank was still furious after the drum section’s embarrassing display.

But maybe he saw my face, or realized that I wasn’t to blame, and I got to play “Up On the Rooftop” after all. My parents clapped, and I was happy again, but I decided to switch instruments in 6th grade. The drum section repeated their behavior during every other concert that year, and I just couldn’t cope with it anymore.

I played the saxophone in 6th grade, which was nearly as bad as playing the drums, then joined the choir in 7th grade. Though I love to sing, my choir instructor told me to lip sync during the concerts since I was, apparently, “throwing everyone off.” I was too heartbroken to fight, and mouthed my songs for the rest of the year. I then switched to art classes in 8th grade, since at least I could just do my thing without anyone else interfering.

I stuck with art for the rest of my high school years, though I still wish I had learned to properly play the drums. How will I ever become Garth from Wayne’s World now?

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