a less than smooth return
Earlier this evening, had my first orchestral rehearsal since returning to New York, and I’m afraid it wasn’t pretty. Sibelius and Tchaikovsky were likely rolling in their graves at the travesty I committed upon their symphonies.
Allow me to explain: Playing most musical instruments is a bit like riding a bicycle – a few months off might leave you slighty rusty, but after a relatively short amount of practice you’d likely once again return to a reasonably high level of proficiency. Playing the trumpet, however, is a bit more like pole vaulting. Sure, there’s a skill component, but it’s also a rather physical undertaking. Tooting the horn requires strength and endurance in the small muscles of the lips, tongue and cheeks, muscles rarely called on for heavy lifting in everyday life. As a result, with too much time away, even the most technically skilled trumpeter is back to square one.
Which is, essentially, where I was upon my return from LA. Though I had brought a trumpet out with me, a number of mechanical problems with it (and, frankly, my severe lack of free time) kept me from playing nearly at all. As a result, I picked up the horn last Friday to find dodgy intonation, cracked notes, poor endurance, no upper register, and a deflated, ‘badly injured cow’ sort of tone quality. In short, I was your basic middle school trumpeter. After a week of heavy practice, I’m now somewhere near high school level, which, while representing strong progress, is still rather short of the professional proficiency my fellow musicians were expecting.
I spent most of rehearsal trying to convince myself that I was likely overdramatizing the problem; that I might not, in fact, be anywhere near as bad as I was imagining. But with my section-mates shooting me dirty looks, several violinists coming over during break to ask if I was feeling alright, and the director occasionally making comments to me such as “that’s okay, we can tune the passage up at the next rehearsal,” I wasn’t particularly reassured.
As a result, I’ll be redoubling my practice efforts between now and next week; with luck, I could even progress to sounding like a pro having a really bad day. Baby steps, baby steps.