If you were to sit me down one day and say, “Katie, I am so incredibly fascinated by your entire life story – pray tell me, what was your favourite thing about secondary school?” then my answer would be, simply: Band.
I ended up in Band by pure chance, which is just as well, because I have a terrible habit of holding myself back from trying exciting things by telling myself all of the ways it will go wrong. Luckily for me, my Year 7 history teacher just happened to have taken over the Band programme and she decided to look for a piano player in our class for complicated reasons that would bore you should I go into them. The short version goes like this: I was there; I played piano; I’d passed the highest AMEB exam of the piano players in the class – I was in.
All of my best memories of secondary school revolve around Band and my VCE History class, because I had an amazing History teacher who gave us lollipops in our last class and told us to save them for the exam because having a lollipop in our mouth would make our brains work better. I’m not sure how that would have gone down in exam conditions, so it’s lucky we all dealt with our lollipops long before the exam turned up.
But as much as I loved History, Band was even better.
Band got you out of class for rehearsals; it introduced you to friends you’d never otherwise meet; it sent you on excursions for the day when your peers were stuck with their regular timetable of classes. Band got you behind the scenes of the school and allowed you to meet teachers in a more informal setting. Best of all, Band made sure music was part of your everyday life and even taught you things such as leadership, compromise and patience (because conductors don’t always appreciate it when you play cards during your 100-bar rest).
You can find me third from the right, playing the keyboard.
Should you be so thrilled by my stories of History classes and Why Band Is Awesome (Parts 1 to 7,829,903) and desperate to know more, I would further explain to you that the best part of Band was Band Camp.
Band Camp allowed you to get away for three days of playing music, spending time with friends and not being at school. We always ended up somewhere rural and bushy, far away from our normal lives. Unlike your run-of-the-mill year level camps, where you’re forced to spend time with people whose only common ground with you is that you’re roughly the same age, Band Camp ensured you spent time with people who loved music as much as you did.
Oh, and that saying, What happens on Band Camp stays on Band Camp? Yeah, that didn’t apply to me; I bored my non-Band friends for days afterwards with stories of Band Camp to the point where they must have either a) felt like they’d been there, or, b) wished I’d never gone.
I didn’t study music when I left school, which meant I had all of this love for music and no-one with whom to play it. If there was one lesson Band had taught me, it was that the whole point of music was to play it with other people. Playing the piano came close, but I still missed making harmonies with dozens of other people. I even missed the mock-feuds we had with the trumpets once I became a flute player (other flute players will understand this).
So I stopped playing, except every now and then when I dusted off the piano or slotted my flute together to see if I still knew how to make them work. It just wasn’t the same, but short of smartening up my flute-playing skills and joining a symphony orchestra, I didn’t know what to do. What was I meant to do with all of this music that I needed to play with other people?
The answer came a few years ago when I heard about a nearby community band. I should join that, I thought to myself. That would be a great way to get back into music. But hot on the heels of enthusiasm came the ever-predictable doubts, thanks to my bad habit of anticipating doom on little to no evidence: What if I’m not good enough? What if I’ve forgotten everything about playing music? What if I don’t fit in?
So instead of running up and joining straight away, I gave it a year or two before I finally summoned up the courage to go to a rehearsal and find out more. “You should join the Concert Band,” I was told, when I explained I hadn’t played in ages and was a bit nervous. “That would be a perfect introduction for you.”
There was no getting out of it now: I was expected.
After my first rehearsal with the Concert Band (having not played with a group since secondary school), I found myself volunteering to play at a performance the next day. Nerve-wracking? Yes. One of the best things I ever did? Definitely.
I was hooked on music again, counting down the days to each week’s rehearsal and lamenting the fact that we took a break for school holidays. Eventually, I summoned up the courage to challenge myself in the more advanced Wind Symphony, but I’ll always keep playing with the Concert Band because it has a special place in my heart. It’s a smaller group and the music is a little easier, which means we can have more fun and engage in a bit of silliness. And just like Band at school, the people are the best part.
It does feel just like being in Band at school, except for one thing… Then something happened that I thought would never happen to me again: I went on Band Camp.
I’m so glad I told my doubts to shut-up and just went for it. Otherwise I’d be sitting here, never having gone on this band camp and unable to find my flute for the build-up of dust on its case.
Is there something you want to do? A little voice that says, “I should get back into that thing I used to love”? Take my advice and do it, no matter how rusty you think you might be, or how bad you fear you might be at it. You might be like me, imagining all the worst things. I’ll be horrible it. Maybe I wasn’t that great after all. The people won’t like me…
The truth is, the worst thing that could happen is that you’ll miss out on an amazing opportunity.
The best thing that could happen? Well, that’s up to us to find out.