Wendishness triggered off this blog entry with her tale of learning the saxophone as a child. I played the clarinet as a teen and later acquired a saxophone, but I had to buy it and teach myself. My father had said that he wasn’t going to have me taught the piano, or any other instrument (as he had been), because it would “distract her from her schoolwork”.
He didn’t ask me- who had a mini violin and could pick out things on the piano by ear from about the age of four. One of my dad’s old friends from his days of piano-playing, was a woman whom I knew as “Auntie Myrtle”. She was an excellent musician and had taught the violin and piano for years before she retired. She made herself very involved in my early years and had given me a quarter-size violin when I was four. [The little girl pictured is NOT ME- she’s named Angelina and plays with a group of youngsters at Jesus Covenant Methodist Church]. Dad wouldn’t let me have lessons and I was trying to teach myself- without much success because I didn’t know how to tune it and make the notes I needed to play it. I was much better on the piano where the notes were fixed and I could play by ear. When we came to Australia, dad sold the piano, along with all the other furniture from our house and did not replace it in Australia. This meant he couldn’t play any more either- but he seemed not to care any more.
After we had been in Australia for 4 or 5 years (I was 10 by then), I wanted to learn the oboe because I loved the sound of it in pieces like Grieg’s ‘Solveig’s Song‘ from Peer Gynt and the solos in Ravel’s ‘Bolero’.
After conferring with a school music teacher who used to stay next door during schol holidays I decided that it would be more practical to learn the clarinet as reeds could be bought for it, whereas oboe reeeds have to be made by the player and there was no one to teach me. So, when I got my high school scholarship (a government thing for bright students whose parents had low income or lots of kids), I went to Sydney and bought a clarinet! My cousin just happened to go to school with Don Burrow’s daughter and she hustled me around to his place so he could show me how to attach the reed and how to blow it! Wasn’t I lucky? So, with 5 minutes input from the expert, I took my clarinet home to the country town where we lived (Port Macquarie on the NSW North Coast for those who are interested). There I taught myself and became skilled enough to really enjoy it. In 1970 I was off to university in Sydney to study Medicine, plus off to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for lessons. To cut a long story short I dropped out of Medicine and enrolled in a combined Music/Psychology major after a few years and did very well. However, not brilliant enough for a musical career, so Psychology got me my first jobs.
Too bad no amount of Psychology or anything else will get me a job these days!