When I was a teen I played the cornet – it’s kind of like a trumpet, all brass and loud. Mine is silver with a stylised flower etched into it. I played it from about the age of 11, however when I was around 15 years old our band master had retired. He was one of those old men who is probably very nice in “real life”, but as a band master he was terrifying and the primary reason that I always practiced my scales and anything else he told me to do! 15 is that particular age where there are many, many things crying out for a boy’s attention, and without the fear of facing myband master I fell out of routine practicing the cornet. In fact, I went out of my way to fall out of practice. I remember going to music classes in years 9 and 10 at school and spending as much time as possible avoiding playing an instrument!
Today, the cornet sits on a display shelf in the rumpus. Every now and then I lean on the shelf and get a heady whiff of brass and polish and dusty velvet. These are the scents of my youth, of afternoon rehearsals and weekend performances. I remember performing at the Opera House (no, not the Sydney Opera House, the Gulgong Opera House) and at my school performance evenings. I remember the time my mum helpfully washed the cornet the day of a performance but didn’t get dried properly. Every time I blew a high note the cornet gurgled like it was blowing bubbles in a milkshake. At the time I was so embarrassed and angry, but now it is one of my clearest memories of playing the cornet. I remember playing “When The Saints Go Marching In” and enthusiastically swaying my cornet side-to-side like I had seen jazz musicians do in movies, until my dear band mastered demanded “What are you doing? Stop that!”
Every now and then I pick up the cornet and give it a quick, loud blow. The kids love it, jump around and demand more, but all I can do is fumble through the scales. But it makes me feel good. It’s times like this I regret my youthful choice to stop practicing, to give up on playing the cornet. Sometimes I consider finding a teacher to help me re-capture that little bit of remembered joy. Maybe, one day, I will.
Do you play a musical instrument? Have you ever given up on something and later regretted it? Let me know in the comments!