Learning the Recorder

I’m relearning stuff at the moment due to the old whack on the head – so this mainly means I am colouring in but the girls want to learn the recorder and I have a hang up about the recorder…

Anyway to cut a long story short there is a Frozen recorder book on it’s way to us and we have received a rather disappointing Elsa/Frozen “recorder” which is a crap plastic all in one moulded toy that is pretty useless but Mary loves it and it was stupid cheap so hey you get what you pay for (I was still narked if it says recorder – I expect an actual recorder!).

With panic I realised the book would probably be all music notation even though it says easy on it. I can’t read music, I have a stab at learning it every few years but nope doesn’t work. I normally just work things out by sound etc… this is actually what got me chucked out of my recorder class in school.

Apparently according to the then music teacher you can’t be a musician without reading music. You can’t play music. This crushed me. What had happened was that she hadn’t noticed I couldn’t read music, I was watching her and the other kids and working it out by ear and progressing nicely. Even when they started setting homeworks it wasn’t too bad as it was nursery rhymes and I just worked them out but then… then they wanted us to do “proper music” story pieces as backing for singers or as part of the orchester. I did not know these songs, my parents were not into classical music – BAM a glass ceiling.

They were complex with different sized recorders – everyone else would turn up knowing the piece, after three weeks of this I knew that something had to happen for me to continue with recorder. So I asked my mum if I could have extra music lessons, she said yes and wrote a letter explaining the situation and that I could not actually read the music – could I have extra lessons (paid for) or did they know who to ask etc… to sort this out.

The letter was the death nell – in front of the enter wind section I was castigated – told that if I hadn’t picked up reading music by now then there was no hope – I simply could not be a musician.

I left angry, and confused and crying, a hot mist of shame clouding my vision. I clutched my two recorders, one of which was basically shiny knew and the classic dark brown and cream, my nan had bought it for me as I’d moved up a group.

Being me I became kind of resigned and militant about this. I didn’t really want to be playing the recorder anyway – I wanted to play the flute. Being a glutton for punishment I went along to the flute try outs. From my prospective it seemed to be going quiet well, I could get a sound out of the damn thing unlike the others in the room. But then the teacher took the flutist aside and hard the mutterings about not being able to read music, or writing for that matter and so on – I would like to add that I was also not the only child in the room at this point but I think the teacher had forgotten I could now hear properly as it was just after the second lot of grommets had been put in.

I doubt my pitch was perfect (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t), I don’t do sound as just a hearing thing anyway, I like to feel it, if I can’t feel it I can’t know if it will fit properly.

Anyway they came over to me and I looked up, “I’m afraid your arms are too short for the flute,” he said.

“What about the picalo?” I asked – I was desperate to play the flute – this was because a blue telepathic animated character out of a cartoon series called Ulysses 31 played an epic flute made of gold and lights that she vanquished monsters with. Also I had curly hair – somehow I felt that meant I was destined for the flute.

He hesitated, “you have to learn the flute first before the picalo.” He said gravely and I left the music room once more with the angry confused mist of shame and tears and snot.

My mother was furious but we could not afford flute stuff outside of the special schools programme.

Then because you know I never know when to quit I went for the choir in the final year of juniors with the same woman. But I was sick on the day the auditions were supposed to happen. When I got back there were four people out of the entire year who were too bad to go in the choir – they were the people I had extra reading lessons with in the special room.

I am a shy person. I was still determined, I was made to stand in the school hall in front of the entire year and given a piece of sheet music that the teacher knew I could not read. I didn’t even know what the song was going to be. I was petrified, everyone knew I wanted to be an opera singer (it was down as part of my three fold dream which involved being a spaceman and archeologist so I could look at rocks – I thought as an opera singing I would get to design the costumes, write the stories and build the sets as well as doing singing, dancing and acting).

I recognised the song, I tried to sing, my voice stuck but then it unstuck and I started to sing.

The teacher loomed in putting her ear right in front of my mouth making comments. But I wanted to be in the choir so much I kept going.

She stopped the music, and announced I was in tune but too quiet and there was no place in the choir for people who couldn’t pull their weight. Everyone knew how much I wanted to be in the choir. I don’t know if I imagined it but at this point I was sure they were all laughing at me. My form tutor came and rescued me and sat on the stairs with me whilst I cried.

“Hey we can’t all be good at everything, what if I told you you hadn’t gotten onto the football team? You wouldn’t be crying then would you?” we both knew I would never have gone for it as I was still learning to run without falling over at this point.

“I would.” I said and she looked at me sitting there in her sports outfit she never took off – she knew me and sports, “if I’d tried out for the football team it would be because I wanted to play football so of course I’d be upset if I didn’t get it especially if I was then told I was rubbish and would never be able to do it, in front of EVERYBODY.”

She smiled and laughed, “Sarah you are amazing, you’ll find away, it will be your own way, now come and see the stuff I’ve got planned for you lot, you’re going to be so glad you aren’t in the choir.”

And I was – we made things and explored things, including creating our own papier mache puppets and sets. I am also still friends with two of the people who were in that group with me.

Of course I also then went and joined lots of choirs, and learnt the guitar and have sundry instruments in my house. Now I know I am not brilliant at music and I know I panic when ever technical stuff is mentioned but I love music.

These events did mar music for me though and looking at it now from where I am as an adult I feel that, that music teacher was most definately in the wrong. She was also my second year class teacher so I would have been 8? She was my least favourite of the junior school. I did revisit the school once before my work experience (which was in the infant school anyway), I made a special trip to her classroom to tell her how I’d been excepted into the choral society as well as having performed in a local performance of Joseph and his Dream Coat and so on – what I didn’t mention was that I still wasn’t having any school music or drama classes as I was still having to go to a special room to learn to read and write properly – I did however mention that I had been given a solo without being able to read music. I am glad I didn’t know the term passive aggression as I would not have done this and I feel that in all honesty it needed to be done.

So back to the here and now as I am sure I’ve blogged about this story a couple of times before!

I have a recorder that I play merrily we row along to get children to sit down at readings and workshops. It turns out to be the only song I can remember since hitting my head though Jean says I could play lots of hymns (makes sense they are songs I would have known well enough from church to work out by ear).

Anyway she doesn’t get recorder lessons at the school – she’s had a bit of uke but they are not a big school and the teacher who could play, left… so I taught her merrily we row along. It took her about half an hour to master and remember and now she is playing it CONTINOUSLY!

Then I was struck by the panic – she was asking for other tunes and I can’t remember any and I don’t think I was particularly good anyway. That and the realisation that the book though saying EASY recorder would no doubt expect music reading skills… I turned to youtube.

I found this vid of Happy Birthday.

My dad was coming down the next day – it was his birthday – it took me 15 mins to get it down pat and I then remembered it in the morning for the kids to sing along to.

I was so proud of myself.

Jean is keen to learn and Mary has always loved the recorder 🙂

(She is now 4 and not the little thing in this video!)

The first thing that happened was my mum mentioned the teacher and we both had the same thought, if I can teach myself using youtube videos whilst suffering with the tail end of a head injury then how the hell did a qualified teacher stuff it up?

I realise I was a “special needs” kid but still… also there were like over 60 kids in my year – that is a 60 strong choir that was not a super duper choir so would 5 “bad voices” have made that much of a difference espcially if they were far away from the mics? And was it coincidence that we were all the “special needs” kids? I’d never thought on that connection before but it is there.

Anyway – I think I need to rest and then learn another song… well actually I am also setting up a section on here of educational stuff so Jean can find it when she wants to learn without me. It should also be useful to others and I may include links to good education workshop leaders etc… not really decided yet.

One last thing – it turns out I know random stuff about the recorder and sizes and stuff and got very defensive when Alaric suggested that only kids play them and that you never see adults playing them!

Posted: Thursday, July 16th, 2015 @ 11:12 pm
Categories: Songs, Video.
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