We have another free week, and as I said last month I’d like to feature some of the groups of people in my life. This time I’d like to introduce you to some of the musical groups in which I have the privilege of performing.
I’ve mentioned that my area of study is music. Most people assume that means I perform, but my focus was on music education, and I spent twenty-eight years teaching elementary students how to read and perform music, and the last nine years have been spent teaching future teachers how to incorporate music into their academic curriculums. While I did a fair share of performing in high school and college, that took a back seat to raising kids, especially since I continued to work full time while my daughters were young.
Once my children were on their own and I retired from full-time teaching, I had more time for doing things I enjoy. I realized I missed making music. I hadn’t given it up entirely, but it took up far too little of my time. I played in the church orchestra once or twice a year, and since I kept up my musicians’ union dues I would get a call once or twice a year to fill in somewhere. But each time that happened I would have to spend a week or more “getting into shape” so that I wouldn’t sound terrible.
A few years ago I decided to join a local community band. They needed an oboe player and they didn’t require an audition to get in, so I showed up. And then I returned again the next week, and the next week. This is my third year playing in that group.
Once I started getting more confident, a strange thing happened. I got an email asking me to play on a regular basis in one of the two community orchestras. Of course I agreed, and now I’m playing all the wonderful pieces of orchestral literature I love to listen to. And then a few months ago I was asked to fill in for another community orchestra for their concert last Saturday. I was thrilled to do this, even though it meant being on the road three evenings a week – I was back doing something I love. Besides, this second orchestra gave me the opportunity to play under the direction of a conductor I’ve known and respected for years.
So in the space of three years I’ve gone from playing two to three times a year to playing three times a week. On Monday evenings I drive about twenty miles southwest to play in the Zeeland Community Band. We play all year long and in lots of different venues – church picnics, senior care facilities, outdoors in the park, and last week we performed a Veterans Day Concert in a senior center. This is a picture of us at the Pumpkinfest in October. What a great experience.
On Tuesday evenings for the last few weeks I drove fifteen miles east to play in the Calvin College Community Symphony. We had a concert this past Saturday and I had so much fun! I asked my daughter to take some pictures of us in their beautiful Fine Arts Center. I sincerely hope they call me to fill in again!
On Wednesday evenings I drive about twelve miles to downtown Grand Rapids and play in the Kent Philharmonic Orchestra. We had a Halloween concert for which we had to dress up – I made myself a grim reaper costume, using my oboe as the handle for my scythe. Next month we’ll have another concert in which two high school musicians will be featured. Again, I really enjoy this group and the challenges the music gives me.
So that’s my musical life right now. How does it relate to my writing? I think it helps me in several ways. Being among several different groups of people gives me more material – the more people I see and observe, the more ideas I get for things that could happen! And reading and performing music helps to keep my mind active, not to mention my body – sometimes I have to park a good distance away from the rehearsal area, so I get my exercise walking there. I’m so glad I don’t play a large instrument!
Have you ever given up a favorite hobby and then tried to pick it up again?
A shared love of music is what brings together the two main characters of my regency novella, Love’s Refrain:
Lady Laura Montgomery would much rather spend her summer at the family estate, but instead she must act as her stepsister’s chaperone for the London season. She takes solace in her poetry books and in her love of music. They’re all she has to comfort her as she once again faces the one man who stole her heart ten years ago.
Andrew Bradford, Earl of Covington, needs an heir, but he’s not looking for love. His mother has made her selection, but he can’t help being drawn to the girl’s chaperone. Can he hope to make a match based on more than beauty and suitability?