William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Trumpeter’s Choice

When I was in fifth grade, I learned to play the trumpet. It was easy. Each week, when the music teacher asked me to play the current lesson, I went through the lines without error. I didn’t practice. One or two times through at the beginning of the week was all I needed. When I was in sixth grade, it was the same. Finally, the time came for me and the other music students to give a recital. The recital was to be held in town at the high school, each of us taking a turn on the stage in the auditorium. The piece I was to play was called “Trumpeter’s Choice.” I didn’t choose it. For that matter, I didn’t choose the trumpet. I took it up because that’s what the school had available. The instrument had a few dents, not much of a shine, a battered case, and that peculiar smell of all brass instruments. It had a spit valve. I never did find out if there was a nicer name for it. Recital day came. I’d practiced a few times with my cheerful piano accompanist, the older sister of a girl in the class, who was quite pleased that she would be playing onstage. This was a feeling I didn’t share. Half an hour before the recital, after one last error-free run-through in a tremendously quiet and lonely classroom down the hall, I suddenly realized that nothing in the world could make me open the door, walk down the hall, enter the auditorium, climb the steps that led to the stage, and play in front of the small group of parents gathered in the seats below. I was that afraid. My mother was there. She tried to encourage me. So did the accompanist. But it was too late. We left and went home. And so ended my trumpet career. I also took piano lessons for five years. It occurs to me now that I refused to play in the piano teacher’s annual recitals. This began before I’d even picked up the trumpet. I simply didn’t want to, and my mother and the teacher were too kind to press the issue. After the first couple of years, the subject was no longer brought up. Had I played, of course my life would have been different. It’s too late to wish I had, or to be glad I didn’t. But in a way, I think I’ve been giving recitals ever since.

I might die today. Even so, until then, I have all the time in the world.


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Categories: Daybook

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