Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was to pick up an instrument and play it.
I didn’t want to have to think about the notes and I didn’t want to have to think about anything. I just wanted to pick it up, and play.
I come from a long line of flutists, and I was determined to have my own instrument but I was told that I have flute lips, so I picked up the “ancient flute” as I called it, I gave it a try and I fell in love with it. (I refer to my first flute as ancient, because my aunt played it, my mom played it, I believe a cousin or two played it, then my older sister played it, and then it was mine.) I started learning to play the flute in middle school. It’s fun to look back now and say, wow I have been playing the flute for 16 years! I just wanted to play music at will, I didn’t think it would also teach me self discipline, strength, determination, and it would show me that hours of hard work really does turn into something beautiful. I remember when we would first get a new piece of sheet music as a band, and I would see the runs or a high note and I would say how in the world is this possible?! They gotta be crazy thinking that I could play something like this! Then the night of the concert would come and that music was so easy that I would often laugh to myself and say why did I even think this was hard?? This was especially true when I had memorized all 3 pieces to our show freshman year in high school before band camp even happened. It was a grade 4 and one of the hardest songs I had ever played. Then came Pippin, and Symphonic Suite by Clifton Williams.
I guess there are a lot of things in life that can teach you self discipline, show your strength, and show you what hard work and dedication looks like. Learning to read music is like learning a new language. What scale is it in? Is it an accidental note? Do I know what that means? Every good boy does fine, F.A.C.E! Is the note coming out too sharp, or too flat? Is it in tune?
One of my first lessons in marching band was that if the band sounds bad, it is always almost blamed on the Piccolo, because it is so fickle! In tune for one minute, then out the next! As I ventured into marching band, played in the pit for school plays and into harder music, I reached a point where after almost 5 years of private lessons, my teacher looked to me and said, “Sarah, there is nothing else I can teach you, you are just as good as me, and I can’t teach you anything else.” I was sad to end lessons, but it was a big accomplishment in my career. As a young flutist, I first learned the flute with braces. Then I re-learned when the braces came off. I re-learned when I got them again, and I re-learned after my strength was lost during my open heart surgery recovery. I learned as I gained hearing, and lost it soon after. I learned that your breath is just as important as your tongue, lips and voice, that taking care of you is just as important as taking care of your instrument. Rest is vital!
They say that to become an expert, you have to practice at something for 10,000 hours. There were many days throughout those 7 years that I spent 8 hours a day, on top of band practice, and lessons on my music. (mostly in the summer months.) For years after school, I would play my flute at least once a week. It slowly moved to once a month and then every few months. On average if I had only spent 4 hours a day for 3 years, 8 hours a day for 3 months for two summers, and then 4 hours a day at least during 4 years of high school, and 1 hour a week during my first 3 years of college, after 10 years I would have gotten at least 11,800 hours.
When I wanted to learn the flute, I just wanted to play music, but I learned so much more, and became an expert at it too!