Another item I need to include to paint a complete picture of our life as a family is music. I will later describe Dad’s crazy bedtime hits, as well as our perhaps unhealthy love affair with musicals. Here I am talking specifically about my kids’ musical endeavors.

The roots of these endeavors started in the fall of 2008? 9? when I took the kids to “Family Day” (presented by Target) at the San Francisco Symphony. This was kind of a big deal. As anyone reading carefully has probably figured out, we are not exactly a symphony-type family.

Because I clearly have a problem with lowest-common-denominator expectations, I was sure we would hear Peter and the Wolf and that Saint-Saens thing where the tuba represents an elephant (or maybe a hippo). Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and complexity of the performances. More important, the kids seemed to soak in every note. When the concert was over, all Mark could talk about was the flute. Flute, flute, flute … and for good measure, flute.

About six months later, at the end of the school year, I told the kids I wanted them to pick an instrument to learn. They would start over the summer when school wouldn’t be an issue, and they had to commit to take lessons for six months, to learn the basics. At the end of the year, they could decide to continue or stop. This was one of the only times I made the boys pursue a particular extracurricular activity. I am firmly in the camp believes that musical education enhances and enriches learning in a variety of ways.

Daveon chose saxophone, which lasted about two weeks. The teacher said his hands were too small, and that he should start on clarinet instead. The bad news: She didn’t teach clarinet, nor could she recommend anyone who did. The good news: Daveon was agreeable to the switch, so we went to the local music shop to rent a clarinet. We asked the salesperson if she knew of any good teachers, and she did. And that teacher was: herself. She—Carolyn—ended up working with Daveon for well over five years, swapping up as his hands grew to tackle alto tax, then tenor—the next Coltrane. Carolyn came to our house for Daveon’s lessons, so that automatically would put her in a tie as my favorite kids’ music teacher, if I—and more important, Daveon—didn’t already like her so much.

(Small world aside: Carolyn was playing in a woman’s big band jazz ensemble and invited me to attend one of their shows. I went, and it turns out that the one of the women running the band was … the original teacher who recommended the switch to clarinet, and thus was indirectly the reason we met Carolyn in the first place. Because, of course.)

Meanwhile: Remember Mark, he of the flute fascination? For his instrument, he, of course, chose … violin. Once again we lucked out in the teacher department, and Mark studied with K.C.—the co-winner for my kids’ favorite music teacher—until as recently as last fall. Although she didn’t come to our house (Note to K.C.: Could you work on that?), K.C. gets bonus points because she not only talked with Mark about skating and the relationship between practice and performance on an instrument and on the ice, but often comes to his competitions. Plus she has a brother who lives in Hawaii and rents out his back cottage, so she is a good person to stay friends with.

Along the way Mark dabbled in piano, which lasted all of a month when he realized that practicing two instruments was actually kind of a lot of work.  He and his brother did learn a mean “Heart and Soul,” though. So if you’re ever in need of some party entertainment …

(Randomly related note: When we were kids, my sisters and I all took piano lessons, anywhere from, say, three to eight years. So we weren’t bad. My mother’s biggest gripe was going to school talent shows to hear her trained kids bust out some Mozart or Schumann, and having to sit through well-meaning, if slightly less well-taught, fourth-graders plunking their way through “Heart and Soul.” I haven’t had the heart—no pun intended—to rat out my kids to her.)

Next: Musical Tributes

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