Self-reflection

If music be…

November weirdness – apparently both Clarinet Day AND Saxophone Day exist in November. (There now follows a slightly self-indulgent post – please forgive me).

Photographs of a person playing a clarinet, a person playing a saxophone and an orchestra playing on stage.

A well known route to writing social media posts is to check and see if there are any “relevant” awareness days coming up. Doing this, you quickly find that there are awareness days or months for most things you could think of and plenty you wouldn’t have. And what does “relevant” mean anyway? Clarinet and Saxophone days don’t appear immediately relevant to the work I do now, but they are relevant to me personally because most of my teenage years were spent playing one or the other!


I learned the clarinet from age 10 to 18 – choosing the clarinet because I was offered the flute or the clarinet at school and pretty much everyone else chose the flute. I passed the exams, but my most joyful and formative times were playing in windbands (and orchestras but I felt a bit exposed in those). I taught myself to play the saxophone and bought a second hand tenor sax when I was in the sixth form – ostensibly because I wanted to join the boys’ school jazz band (we didn’t have one) and that was the instrument they were missing (I know… questionable motives but it was a lot of fun).

The reason I loved playing in ensembles was the feeling of being part of the collective, part of a creative tribe working together. Through playing in ensembles I learnt to listen to others, and to take my turn at leading and following when the need arose. In many ways, the time I spent with my clarinet and saxophone formed part of who and how I am today.

The reason I still love to listen to ensemble music is the interplay between different instruments – for me, that’s what makes music so special – how very different voices come together to create something magical (I sang in a lot of choirs too).

I no longer play, and I often forget to listen to music too (or at least to properly listen – there is usually something playing somewhere in the house). But a trip to a musical last weekend gave me goosebumps (and watery eyes) during the big chorus numbers. I feel like November is trying to tell me to reconnect with music in a more meaningful way so I’m going to listen to the nudge and try to add some time in every day to properly listen to a piece of music.

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