It’s true. 5 years ago I was recovering from spinal surgery and didn’t think I’d ever play flute again. I used to be…okay. Not the greatest, but good enough to teach and work with some pretty more-than-okay students. At one time I had even considered playing in an orchestra for a living. Then my neck got messed up and I wound up getting it sliced open and having a neurosurgeon muck around with my spine.
Now I’m almost playing again. It’s been…a while since I’d even gotten it out of the case. I now have a flute student who started this week, so I figured I’d better get moving. Been working at it for the past week and my sound is not quite back, but almost. It sounds more like a reed player in a jazz ensemble whose 3rd instrument is flute; the notes are in tune, but the sound’s a little weak.
I hadn’t realized how much a part of my life it was until it was impossible to play. When I’m nervous, I still drum out fingerings to sonatas and concertos and Syrinx against my hand. But the fact is, I have a hard time physically playing the way I used to play.
But here I am. Last week, I had my first teaching job on flute in 6 years. It was a little nerve-wracking, but I found the place that was much farther away than I thought. I went in and confronted things head-on.
“I should tell you before we get started. I have a problem with my back and neck. I’m only just now going back to playing myself, but I still know how to play and I can teach you.” “That’s ok. You don’t have to perform.” And all at once the giant gorilla leaped off my back and we got started.
The lesson went okay for a first lesson. Okay enough for a next one this week; they’re sounding pretty much like a beginner, but by the end of the hour they’d found the spot on the mouthpiece that gives the best sound. I felt slightly less worthless than I had going in. We agreed to try again this weekend. I never thought I’d be doing this again, not teaching flute certainly. Life is weird. Weird isn’t bad, it’s just unexpected.