Happy, Happy


Clarient 2

Clarinet 3

Clarinet 4

Some of you don’t know Mikey plays the clarinet. And if you don’t know that, you don’t know that I went Tiger Mother on him and told him was going to play the clarinet. I strongly encouraged him. To this day, I don’t know why I was so adament about the clarinet. I played the piano for a decade and I have no real opinion on clarinets or music like jazz and soul, where you normally hear the clarinet. The best I can say is that I thought he would like it based on how much he loved the recorder in 3rd grade. He fought me. He wanted to play the trumpet or saxophone. I don’t have an opinion on trumpets or saxophone, other than saxophones remind me of a skeevy Rob Lowe in St. Elmo’s Fire. Also, Bill Clinton. The Mister calls the saxophone the lady’s man instrument.

I’m relieved to say that Mikey took to the clarinet like a fish to water. He practices for fun and has me download the sheet music of his favorite songs. He’s taught himself to play some Star Wars songs, Tao Cruz, Ode to Joy (that one by ear), and this week, Viva La Vida by Coldplay. The first thing he did when he got home from school was grab his sheet music and practice for about an hour. He scribbled, made notes, crossed off music he didn’t like, and circled areas he needs help with from music teachers.

He taps his foot when he plays. I noticed that at the school concert in April. He does that thing my piano teacher used to do, the snapping of the fingers and waving of the hand at the beginning of the piece like a human metronome. He doesn’t realize he does either. He likes me to take videos of him playing over the course of a few weeks so he can watch himself improve. He watched the videos the way a football player watches post-game films in a locker room.

The other day I had the boys and the carpool kids in the car. I asked them what their favorite subject was, but most of them said things like recess or PE. When I asked if they could go to school and learn only one subject, only Mikey changed his answer. “Oh,” he said. “That’s easy. Music.”

It’s his favorite class and I don’t know how school music instructors do it. All those instruments! All those kids! The thought of organizing a production with so many different levels of talent and interest stresses me out. Hats off to you, music teachers.

On Thursday, as Mikey was working on Viva La Vida, he started asking me about college and scholarships. I explained to him the concept, how colleges will pay for a student to attend classes if they contribute a needed talent to their school. Mikey waved his clarinet in the air and said, “Here’s my scholarship right here, mom.” I told him he would probably have to be in a marching band to get a scholarship. He did not like that idea. The idea of skipping across a field with a clarinet and a feathered hat terrifies him. (His words.)

He asked me about majors next. I explained the idea to him, which he didn’t like. He thought it was unfair that someone would make him choose between science and music. I told him he could always do a double major, and he liked the idea. (Hahaha! Music and science! Two of the hardest majors to combine!)

What amazed me is that this was the first time in 6 years that he ever considered doing something other than paleontology. Mikey is ridiculously loyal and committed. When he makes up his mind, he stays the course, so music must be important for him to consider something other than science.

This summer he is again going to music camp, though he’ll be playing on the bass clarinet this year. The band needs another bass and Mikey’s teacher thinks he can do it. Mikey also wants to take a remix class, where you learn to make mixes on your tablet. Or DJ? Or something. No clue on the technical terms. He and Nico are really inspired by Martin Garrix. It’s insane to think that boy is only 9 years older than Mikey.

Last year, I followed my instincts and ignored Mikey’s request for a different instrument. Now, he tells me he can’t imagine playing a horn–though he wouldn’t mind playing one in the future. Listening to my gut, not screwing up my kid (that I can see) by making him play an instrument he didn’t want, and watching him continuing to develop and refine his interests makes me happy, happy.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. Jeannej says

    I love this post. Just went to my daughters band concert. She plays vibes with a sister boys school marching band and concert band. One if 3 girls. I still remember telling her she was ging to band camp at the boys school and her moaning about it. (I’m not marching with a 30 lb thing on my shoulders, etc). Just try it I said. It has defined her high school experience. She is not as dedicated as Mikey but it has kept her in piano lessons that she wanted to quit and provided her with lots of boys who are just friends. The band director is a saint and they love him. Sometimes we know more than our kids think we do about what is best for them. Ask any adult who was in marching band–it was the best experience of their high school days.

  2. says

    Oh, Mikey. What a charmer. I played clarinet for 8 years, and though I got sort of sick of band by the end, I did like marching! I guess it depends on the school but our band always marched in parades. We’d go to other towns, too, and join their parades since we were a small town in a sea of other small towns and none of our towns had enough going on to scrape together an entire parade worth of people without teaming up with the neighboring towns.
    We started in fifth grade and I absolutely loved getting my clarinet and marching around the block right in the middle of a school day. It always felt so free!

    Anyway, I think there are definitely scholarships unrelated to marching band if he is interested.

  3. Hazel says

    My brother wanted to learn the saxaphone (I did clarinet) but was strongly advised to take clarinet first, so Mikey could always end up playing both.
    My youngest has trombone lessons at school and that’s hard!!

  4. Darcy says

    This is a happy post — That is so amazing that he loves it that much!! See, Moms really do know everything!!

    I will try to remember this post, my boys are younger than yours (4 and 1)!

  5. Brooke says

    I’ve been having a similar experience with my youngest (he’s almost 12). It has been outstanding to watch him really develop a keen interest in his instrument and music in general. I hope it continues to grow and develop – I can’t wait to see what he’ll be capable of in the future. He plays the viola, but has also cultivated a desire to learn the cello, guitar, and piano! I hope he masters them all!!
    Good luck to Mikey! He sounds like a natural musician and like an absolute delight in general!

  6. J.Lee says

    I think trusting your parenting intuition is a good idea. You know how far you can push your own child and when to scale it back. I’m really glad this worked out. Music is a wonderful gift.

    I did not want to do marching band, just not my thing. Instead, during high school I enrolled in lessons at the local music conservatory to play orchestra instead. This is also an option for college, participating in musical performance, seasonal, and theater with an instrument. Clarinet would be welcome.

  7. says

    I cannot fathom a more exhausting job than a band teacher! Seriously- props to music and band teachers everywhere!

    My grandfather double majored in English and Chemistry. I’m always astounded by that. Not just the difficulty of two totally different tracks in terms of classes, but that his brain could fire away on both sides like that:)

  8. Ellen says

    Music, and band buddies are such a great thing to have through school – definitely the highlight of my junior high and high school years! Does Mikey have a birthday coming up soon? You should get him a music stand so he doesn’t have propped up music flopping around, and helps to maintain good playing posture

  9. YJ says

    I don’t about combining music and science as majors, but I’d argue that music and science go together. Some of my best friends from high school were both in my youth symphony and science/math team. We’d all see each other at math competitions (yup, I was a mathlete) on Saturdays, then at rehearsals on Sundays.

    I think we were better math and science students thanks to our music. My AP physics study buddy played oboe and I played violin but when we were learning about frequencies, we would explain it to each other in terms of music.

    Also, there was a kid in NY that just got into all the ivies and he chose Yale so he could pursue science to become a doctor but also keep his music alive.

    Also, in most cities there are orchestras/chamber groups formed of people who have a “day job.” Mikey could still be a paleontologist that plays the clarinet.

  10. Elisabeth says

    You can tell Mikey that my (beloved) alma mater, Northwestern, offers highly-regarded dual-degree programs in music and other disciplines, including engineering! Not to mention a thousand opportunities for musicians to play everywhere from concert halls to marching bands to rock bands to theater and opera productions, no matter what degree they’re pursuing. Music and
    other pursuits, including science, are NOT mutually exclusive at a great university!

  11. says

    as a music teacher who had a music scholarship, i am so happy happy to see this also! you don’t HAVE to do marching band, depending on your major and the university. usually for music education it is required. for higher scholarship possibilities, consider a switch to oboe down the line – they are in higher demand. i play a less common instrument (euphonium) and basically had a scholarship bidding war between two private universities over me. feel free to save my contact info and get in touch way down the line. :) yay music!

  12. Andrea says

    I don’t know if he’ll end up going to a high school with marching band, but I really encourage him to try it! His idea of marching band is probably quite different from what it actually is, I was shocked when I saw my high school daughters’ first show-it’s very competitive nowadays and the high schools do one intense show they work on and perform all year. I encourage you to look up videos on Youtube of Carmel H.S. Marching Band, the Woodlands H.S. Marching Band, and Broken Arrow Marching Band. They’re amazing and might change his mind (or at least interest him a little bit).

  13. says

    This is SUCH a great story, and this is a perfect example (bringing up your a-few-days-old instagram about blogs) of why I think blogs have a unique place. You couldn’t tell this story on Instagram or Twitter. You need this space to record this bit of Mikey’s childhood so he can come back and read it long after it would have fallen off your newsfeed.

  14. says

    I absolutely love stories like this! Kids learn character traits and things about themselves in a band room that they’d never learn in any other classroom.

    I second Andrea’s suggestion to check out the high school marching bands she mentioned, plus maybe a few more: Avon H.S., IN; Round Rock H.S., TX; and Bellbrook H.S., OH.

    If I may make a suggestion, I’d encourage you to forward this to your school’s administration and the school board. So many school districts are suffering through budget shortfalls, and unfortunately music education often ends up on the chopping block. If your child is having a positive experience, please let them know, and thank them for their continued support of the program!

  15. says

    Broken Arrow is really, really good. They’re just on the other side of town from me. When I was going to high school, our band used to beat them regularly at competitions, but things have slid since, which makes me sad. Anyway, you can also check out Drum Corps International and watch some of those videos – I still get chills. Can you tell I was a total band nerd? And some of the best band nerds are now amazing band directors themselves. I hope he’s able to find a way to incorporate music into his whole life. He’s got a great start :)

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