Finding My Way Home

It took me nearly 35 years to do this.

It has been a long journey, filled with ups and downs, lots of changes, some heartache, and a lot of thought. But I made a decision.

I am going to pick up the trumpet again.

Sometimes we have to step away from the things we love the most. And I loved playing the trumpet. I was good. I could make it sound like it was supposed to. And I loved the music itself. Didn’t matter what it was. I played anything: concert and symphonic material, jazz, Sousa marches… It was all worth playing.

For years I played professionally as a member of a Marine Corps field band. Three of them, actually: I played in bands in Virginia, on Okinawa, and in North Carolina. In between I played in clubs, sometimes in the studio, occasionally in a church. Sometimes I got paid. Sometimes I didn’t; those times I just wanted to be there.

Along the way something changed. It wasn’t fun or enjoyable anymore. It became a job. And I got burned out on that aspect of it. The problem, however, was that this burnout affected everything. And it caused me, once I was able to do it, to walk away.

So I did. I put my trumpet away and didn’t pull it out of the case, much less look at it, for a really long time. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a decision that I would regret. It took years for me to figure that out, and once I did, a number of things became clear to me.

First, for me, music has always been what songwriter Tom Chapin called, “my oldest friend and my fiercest foe.” There is a lot of truth to that. I have always been at peace with myself most when music in some form has been part of my life. The periods when I have had the most unrest in my being is when music is not there. At the same time, music has contributed to times in my life where living was a very hard thing to do. That’s difficult both to describe and to imagine.

But there it is.

Another thing struck me, and it is perhaps the main reason I decided to go back to playing. I had forgotten how much I’d identified with the trumpet. It’s so funny; when I recently pulled my trumpet out of its case, my hands reflexively knew where to go. When I worked the valves, it was immediately clear, however, that they hadn’t been used for some time. Same with the slides; they also need some work.

I also have an acoustic guitar that, frankly, I’m a little scared of. I am hoping that I can figure that instrument out. It’s an instrument I’ve had for years. But I didn’t have a clue how to play it. I still don’t. But maybe I’ll try to learn.

On my way to work yesterday I stopped in at a music store not far from my house. Had a wonderful conversation with one of the staff; he happened to be the in-house brass guy. I may bug him for a lesson or two once I have laid some foundation.

For now I have an Arban method book and a new Bach 5C mouthpiece to work with. My trumpet is clean. And I have a lot of work to do.

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