Amazing Kids! Magazine

A Special Holiday Season

By Luke Henize, grade 8, Ohio


“Try It Night.” That’s what they called it at least. It was held every year in the music room at our high school and was a time for all the fourth-graders to try out all sorts of instruments that would be offered in our district’s music program. Kids would then select their top three instrument choices, and next year they would either be enrolled in band, orchestra, or chorus. Walking into the music room, I was excited; this year I was a fourth-grader. I had waited so long to get here and couldn’t wait to start playing.

My mom asked me if I wanted to go check out the band or orchestra instruments first, and even before she asked it, I knew where I wanted to go. For several years I knew I would one day be in the band. I’m not sure if it was because my older brother was in the band first and I had just been inspired or if I thought the instruments looked cooler, but I could just tell band was right for me.

I yelled my reply and took off without her. The band instruments were inside the music room, so I went inside and disappeared into the mob of people. I went straight to the middle of the room and looked all around me. Baritone, tuba, saxophone, clarinet, all sorts of percussion, trumpet, flute, and whatever that other one is, I thought. There were lines around many of the instruments, so I decided I might only have time for a couple. I went over to the clarinet and looked at it. It looked pretty cool. It was made out of plastic and had a ton of holes that were supposedly used for playing different notes.

The band director caught me looking at it and asked if I wanted to try it out. I said yes and tried playing. It was way harder than I had imagined. Unfortunately, I was frustrated by the time my time was up because I had only succeeded in actually playing it a few times.

My mom suggested trying a different instrument, having caught up to me by now.

Pointing to the trumpet, I decided I’d try it. The instructor here told me that I had to put my lips together and make this weird buzzing sound with them. If I could do that, then all I had to do was press my lips to the mouthpiece, and I was set. Easy!

Well, this one wasn’t any easier than the clarinet had been. For starters, I couldn’t even make the buzzing sound, and my instructor eventually ran out of ideas to give me, so I basically was just standing there, forced to leave. At this point I was starting to tear up. This wasn’t my idea of a fun Try It Night. I talked it over with my mom, and we decided to leave. I told them I was interested in playing the clarinet and trumpet, only because those were the only ones I had tried. The next day I tried to shrug it off, but everyone was talking about what they liked. I heard Seth saying he liked the flute even though people made fun of him because they said it was a “girly” instrument. A slew of people liked the trumpet and saxophone, and I was stuck lying to everyone and saying, “Me? Oh, I liked the clarinet.”

But now all that’s changed. It’s a year later. I play the clarinet in our school’s fifth-grade band. I’m not complaining about how everyone is happy but me or how I’m really bad at band. Well, actually, I still am pretty bad. But it doesn’t matter now. What matters is the sea of people before me. It reminds me a little of all the people in the band room on Try It Night.

Wow, I didn’t think playing in front of all these people would be this terrifying. I blink again, thinking maybe this was all a dream. It isn’t. There are probably hundreds of people out in the crowd. We are in the gymnasium in our elementary school, our band now on-stage and about to start our winter concert. Chairs have been set up all throughout the gym, and there are still plenty of people standing up. I started sweating. Oh my gosh. Is our band ready for this? Am I ready for this?

All of a sudden, all my thoughts come to a screeching halt. The band director walks up to the middle of the stage, tells us we’ll do great, then turns around to face the microphone.

“Good evening everyone!” he says. The crowd quiets down. “Welcome to the fifth- and sixth-grade band holiday concert. I thank you very much for coming out tonight.” He goes on to introduce our band since we are up first and talks about how much we have improved. Not me, I think. Our teacher wraps up his talking by describing our first song, then turns back toward us.

He looks back at the percussion to make sure everyone has all the instruments set up. He nods to everyone else and assures us we’ll do fantastic.

The palms of my hands are sweaty; doubt rushes through my mind. There’s no way we’re ready for this, I think. The conductor gives us the beat of our first song, signaling that we are about to start. There’s no way we’re ready for this. Now our teacher brings his hands up, meaning that we’re supposed to bring our instruments up to our mouths. There’s no way we’re ready for this. All at once, our conductor starts waving his hands to the tempo of the song, and we all start playing.

Music is all about playing together. As we begin the song, I am mostly focused on my personal performance because this is my first concert and I want to make sure I am doing well. However, as we keep on playing throughout our first song, a piece combining favorite songs of the holiday season, I start listening to our band as a whole. To my surprise, we actually sound pretty good.

We reach the end of the song and receive a grand applause. Wow. Maybe I’m not actually that bad at clarinet after all. Now of course, I’m just one player in our entire band, so I am not the only reason we play well, but I am definitely surprised at how our first song turns out.

But we still have the second song to go.

Fortunately, it seems that the rest of the band is thinking what I am thinking. Looking around at the other players, a lot of them look pleased and a lot more relaxed than they were just a few minutes before.

We go through the routine of our teacher telling the audience about the next piece; then he turns to us and gives us the tempo and some more words of encouragement. When we have changed our music to our next and final song and our teacher once again signals that it is time to play, we begin.

This time, we do just as well, if not better. All the hours of practice and rehearsal are finally paying off for our band! I guess practice really does make perfect.

And then I think some more about this. I know I should really be giving my music 100 percent of my attention right now, especially since it’s a concert, but while I am playing, I start thinking about how far I’ve come. My mind races back to Try It Night, to our first time playing together as a band, to the first time we got our two music pieces for this concert, and then back to right now.

I finally realize why I was always unsatisfied with my playing: I didn’t have confidence in myself.

All this time I have been focused on the past. And in the past, I didn’t play very well—but only because I was just starting out. I blinded myself from all of my improvement because I was so sure I was way worse than anyone else. But that wasn’t the case, and I have only just figured that out.

I force myself to concentrate again because I am not focused on my music as much as I should be. So for the last part of the song, I play correctly, and we finish the piece nicely.

The next moments seem like a blur. We get a huge round of applause from the audience; are rushed off-stage to make room for the next band, the sixth grade band; and sit down at an area of seats reserved for us. We sit and watch them play, but I am having trouble listening to them because I have so many thoughts running through my head. Wow. I can’t believe that just happened! I always thought of band as just another class for school, but now I see that there’s so much more to it.

As I reflect back on the last 10 minutes or so, I once again think about how much changed when I started to have a little confidence in myself and my abilities.

When the concert comes to an end, I wade through the crowd to my parents. They both congratulate me on my performance and compliment our whole band. Other people walking by notice me holding my clarinet, then congratulate me, too.

Tonight is a great experience for me, but it is time to go home. On the way back, I think, Huh, I never realized how far a little confidence can take you.