A sad farewell to the trumpet

I wanted to play the trumpet as a boy.   I was reminded of that a few nights ago while watching the film “Chinatown” for the umpteenth time.  The rich, melancholy sounds of Uan Rasey’s trumpet dot the soundtrack and capture the film’s essence, Los Angeles noir, to a tee.

It’s unclear when I first fell in love with the brassy sounds of the trumpet.  I suspect it was a 40s film toward the end of the Big Band era but really I do not know.

I was in fourth or fifth grade when the music instructor, Mr. Christopher, began meeting with parents, urging them to buy instruments for their children so the school would have a decent band by the time they reached high school.

My choice was the trumpet, or the similar cornet.   Making the choice easier was the fact my two best friends had signed up for the trumpet.  But to my great disappointment, Mr. Christopher, told my parents I didn’t have “the lip” to play trumpet and suggested the clarinet whose softer often squawky sounds marked it in my mind as an instrument for girls.  I didn’t like anything about the clarinet but in the end, wanting to please my parents, I capitulated.

I see now that I was probably the victim of a numbers game, that Mr. Christopher was less worried about my lip and personal desire than he was in having X number of clarinets to go with Y number o trumpets and cornets.

When I finally got old enough to start thinking for myself and making a limited number of decisions, I dropped the clarinet and gave up entirely on the music game.  I liked to listen to music.  I just didn’t want to play it.

Looking back, I wonder what might have happened had I been allowed to experiment with the musical instruent I admired.  Parents make a mistake when they force certain musical instruments on their children to please a band instructor.  Such decisions, I’m sure,  always turn out bad.

And people wonder why their children grow up frustrated just like they did.  It’s bad parenting.


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