The guy beside me keeps fiddling around with the melody. He’s still trying to perfect that part. He can’t move his fingers quick enough. He doesn’t know the patterns. Whatever, I think. I couldn’t hear him anyways.
It was our turn now. 10 minutes, we’re allowed. We don’t use all of the chairs. There’s over 2 unused rows.
The 10 minutes is over. 4 songs. It was probably even shorter than that. The audience claps, but I heard myself. I wasn’t impressed. No errors, but nothing spectacular. We walk off.
The next band comes on stage. They have to grab more chairs. They have – I counted. At least 60 dudes. 60 senior band students. I expected this, since our music program was never the most popular, but I didn’t expect hindsight to feel so empty.
Inferiority hangs over the air as I listen to their performance. The brass cuts through the air like a hot knife through butter. The woodwinds are mellow and subdued. The flutes pierce through the air crisply. The uniformity is startling. The percussion holds me tight, and binds me to the music.
I can’t put it into words.
You know those movies where the soundtrack is really good? Like, the ones by Hans Zimmer? Inception? It’s like that. Emotionally, it’s like that. Controlled, yet loose when commanded to. Like you almost want to cry. Your chest wells up. Crescendo. Your heart falls. Decrescendo. Everything is beautiful. Everything is awesome.
I didn’t know that the Harry Potter theme was so good.
They’re so much better. We’re not playing for points. It’s just for a little fun, and maybe some improvement, but it still hurts. Sitting down in a room full of giants makes you feel a lot smaller than you are. Being in company like this makes you quieter than usual. They’re better than you. They’re objectively better. They’re playing songs that have actual pauses. They’re playing multiple melodies at the same time.
There’s so many more people. This is an actual band. This is what a real band sounds like.
We’re nothing, compared to them. But we’re the same age. And we’re still the senior band. We’re just not them.
And my mind starts trailing. And I start thinking about how it would’ve been to be at that school, instead of this one,. I start thinking about if anybody there would have the same passion that I had for anything – that anyone there was actually enthusiastic about life, and not just enthusiastic about getting to “the best college.”
I start to wonder about my romantic life. I start to think about stupid-ass situations where romcoms would begin. I think about plot lines. I think about how our relationship would blossom into marriage.
Then I start chiding myself, because that’s pathetic.
But I can’t get my mind off of the music. I can’t get over my inferiority. I’ve already accepted it. I can’t change it now. There’s no time machine waiting for me at home; no plot line that’ll allow me to “live how I want.”
I can’t stand it.
The clarinet was never the most popular instrument. Why did I pick it? It was easy. Familiar. Like a recorder. I just blow. I can blow hard, and I can blow soft. I can play as beautifully as I want, but I’ll still get drowned out by the saxophones. I’m never going to be as loud.
I suppose it’s only fitting that I can only sound the best when I’m playing quietly.