Clarinet Capers

“It’s okay, Clary, Daddy will be right back.”

These were the words spoken  by my 10-year-old clarinet student– I’ll call him B— when I told him we were going practice on the mouthpiece and not the entire instrument.

B seemed almost infatuated with the clarinet when he was thinking about what instrument to play.    He named each part of his clarinet: Mouthpiece =  “Reedy,” barrell =  “Barrelly,” upper joint =  “Pipey,” lower joint= “Pipel,” and bell= “Belly”.  I laughed at the last one, like a little kid (“Hee hee, Belly! Hee hee…”) but he wasn’t amused.

Together, the parts make up his beloved Clary.

I named my clarinet, too, when I was his age.  Her name is Clarissa.  Sometimes Clary and Clarissa play duets or even talk to one another between songs.

B really wants to learn the clarinet and looks forward to his lessons.  At first, I would meet him at the door.  When he saw me, he would run to me.  He was ready to get started. Now, if I’m not at the door, he bursts into my house full of expectation.  When he gets close to me, he still becomes a little shy, but quickly overcomes that.   “You can leave now, Dad,” he says. Pretty impressive for someone on the autism spectrum.

“Can we learn a new note today?  Can we do one of the trill keys?”

I reply, “First we’ll go over your lesson, and then we’ll learn something new.”

“Will I get a sticker?” he asks.

“Of course!”

“Hooray!”

And off we go.

Once my sticker book “disappeared” (which I eventually found in Philip’s room… B said I could “yell at Philip later”) and I frantically looked around for a new reward for B’s playing.  I spied the mini pumpkins, and handed him one.

“Really? Can I keep this?”

“Yep!” I responded.

By the end of the lesson, B earned three mini pumpkins.

“Wait until my dad sees this!!!” he exclaimed.

B is proud when he makes the “wall of fame” at school for practicing at least 5 times per week.  His latest note said, “Good progress!” over the holiday break.  Score!

I am amazed at B‘s excitement over his lessons.  I look forward to our time every week.  I see B growing in many ways– persistence, counting, breathing, hand-eye coordination, just to name a few.  Music is powerful!

I have learned from him, too– how to think on my feet, how to teach in a way he’ll understand, and how to relax and enjoy the wonder of the clarinet.

Here’s to more clarinet capers, and more music in our lives!

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