In the second of my series of pupil interviews I talk to Linda, a 47-year-old clarinet student, who has been taking lessons for 6 months.
How did you get started with your clarinet lessons?
I have played the flute since I was 8, and have played in wind bands, school orchestras and all that, and decided I wanted to learn something else. So I picked the clarinet, no reason why, I don’t know why I picked the clarinet, more probably a bit of a challenge. Then I just searched online to find a teacher and ended up with you.
Did you do much music as a child?
I taught myself Recorder at junior school, and had lessons at school with flute. When I went to senior school I just walked up to the Head of Music and said Please can I join your band? So I played a bit for him and he said “yep”. So I played in the school band and then through our music teacher, I’m that old that we used to get free music lessons at school. Then they stopped so we had private lessons, that was in Chesterfield, from that we got to play in the North East Derbyshire band. So I played in Junior, Intermediate and then Senior wind bands.
So, joining a band helped you to keep playing as a teenager?
I think it helps you to make lots of friends, because then when I went to Uni I just joined the band and orchestra there. Also, the conductor of the band I play in now is the same conductor as the band I played in at North East Derbyshire, with the same people. We all went to university and we all came back and because we were too old to play in the North East Derbyshire band, we set up our own band. Everybody knew everybody else, so we got in contact with everyone else and we all went back and played.
What do you like most about learning to play an instrument?
Clarinet is more of a challenge and it makes you think about all the things that you take for granted with playing the flute: like your embouchure and you’ve got to think about all those things again, and I’ve learnt notes below the stave that I didn’t know before. It's very relaxing because you have to just concentrate on the music, so you can forget about anything else. Even if it’s a hard piece, or you’re having trouble, you can just put it down and go back to it.
What do you like most about your lessons?
I like coming to chat to you! It gives me a goal, I have to practice because she’ll know that I’ve not practised, not that she’ll tell me off, but then I’ll feel bad because I haven’t practised. It gives you a goal for what to do for that week, even if you’re really busy and you can’t practice very much, I’ve got to do at least 10 minutes.
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about starting lessons, but maybe feels a little nervous?
I would say just go for it, you’re not going to know until you try and it doesn’t matter if you have a bad week, and it goes wrong, you’ll make up for it another week. But if you don’t try it you’ll always think: oh, what if?
Do you think learning an instrument has had a big impact in your life? How so?
My husband and I played in the same band together at school, but we don’t remember each other, even though we had a mutual friend. But then when I came back from Uni, I found a band, I dragged my other friend along, who played sax, and my husband and my sax playing friend played in a swing band together, so they dragged them along and that’s how we met. And then all my friends that I’ve made through band as well, so yeah it's had a big impact.
Do you like practising?
Yes and No. It depends on what bit I’m learning and how hard I’m finding it. But then if it’s really hard, I’ll just play something easier, that I know I can play, and then go back to it. It depends on the day.
Do you have any tips to help others who might be struggling to get into a routine of practising?
I would say set up your clarinet, or whatever instrument you are learning, and leave some music on a music stand. Then you'll at least go, oh, I'll just do 10 minutes, and it's quicker to do that few minutes, even if it's just a scale or a little piece, than having to think I've got to get my instrument out, I've got to put it all together, I've got to put it away again. So invest in a good music stand an an instrument stand.
How would you describe your teacher?
Friendly, very patient, very encouraging and enthusiastic and kind.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I think just give it a go. You don’t know whether you’re going to get on with the instrument or with your teacher until you try.