Playing the French horn blows

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French horn.The flute is so pretty. Silver, slender and refined. I had my heart set on being a flutist when singing up for band in Grade Six. I tried out many instruments but what I really, really wanted was that flute. However, I huffed and puffed but I couldn’t make a sound on the damn skinny thing. When it came to the French horn I was a natural. So I was told by the band teacher. Zut!

I was the only French horn player in the Grade Six band – a combined musical group of two schools, Gaspereau Valley Elementary, the country school, and Wolfville Elementary, the town school. I felt awkward enough having come from the “hick mountain”, not wearing the right brand of clothing, having to take the bus, having to sit in the urban music room with the town kids. Playing the French horn just added to my feelings of rural barbaricness. Why oh why did I have this stupid instrument that I had to stick my hand into?

During band practice, when the teacher called on each of the instrument sections to listen to the harmonies, there were enough flutists to drown out the missed notes. There were enough clarinetists to take the blame for the squeaks. There were enough trumpets to blast through the allegro. Then there was…me. Just me.

I was mortified about playing solo and felt prickles of heat climbing up my neck and poking at my skull. My face was enflamed and my mouth become dry. Making my attempt at blowing into the French horn worse and resulting into nothing resembling a song. Except perhaps a fowl call.

It was hardly the band teacher’s fault that I never practiced so the music escaping my horn wasn’t music at all but a mournful, flat sound like a sad goose squawking over a lost worm. Terribleness that no one should listen too.

Those Wolfville kids were staring at me, wondering why I had left the mountain and climbed down into their green and plush Annapolis Valley. It must have been an inside joke that we were learning John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

I stayed with the French horn for a year. Then I asked to switch to the trumpet and joined six other horn players. I was much better at being a part of the crowd at this pre-teen point in my life. These would be my “personality developing” years. Most of my friends have had these too. The years where we wanted to fit in. There would be time for learning how to march to our own beat, but not in junior high.

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