Playing the flute came easy to me. I was (and still am) a very good flute player. In 6th and 7th grade, I made the All City band. In 8th grade, I made 2nd chair Junior Regional band right behind the girl that was first chair in my band. Plaza Jr High School had lots of orange blazers represented in the Junior Regional band. Flute was fun, but, I knew it wasn't the instrument that I wanted to play for the rest of my life. As a matter of fact, I wanted to learn all instruments!
The city of Virginia Beach ran a summer band program every year. Kids from all across the city would all go to one school, learn an instrument and play in a concert band. I learned to play the flute in summer band. So, I took the opportunity to learn other instruments during summer band. One summer, I learned clarinet. The next, I learned the trumpet. While I liked both of those instruments, I knew that neither would be my main instrument.
My junior high school band director would bring in outside instructors (who I now know were his friends) to help out the band. One of them happened to go to James Madison University. He brought in a tape (yes, a cassette tape) of JMU's marching band playing the theme song from the Jetsons. It was the best thing my young ears had ever heard! I decided that I was going to JMU.
From that moment, everything I did was in preparation for going to JMU. I started piano lessons because I had heard that you had to be able to play piano in order to be a music major. Now, I just needed to pick the right instrument. I knew that my chances of getting into JMU were slim on the flute. Every audition I would go to, there were always at least 100 flute players. While it did feel good to be #2 out of 100, I didn't like those odds.
In 8th grade, a whole new world open up to me. I was finally able to be in the Advanced Band! In Advanced Band, we played grade 4 and 5 music (which in a junior high school band was almost unheard of). I was able to hear all of the other instruments and the parts that were written for them. Our band director, Mr. Pease, taught us to listen and learn ALL of the parts, not just our own, so that we knew how our part fit into the rest of the song. By doing this, I heard some amazing melodies and countermelodies in the baritones and french horns. I wanted to switch to baritone! So, before the end of the school year, I went to Mr. Pease, my band director, and told him what I wanted to do. He took one look at me and said, "Your lips are too small for the baritone. Why don't you try the French horn?" He also made sure to add, "If you want to switch instruments, you have to come back playing the French horn just as good as you play the flute!" That stuck with me as I was learning to play the horn that summer.
When school started again that September, I was ready. There were two horns in advanced band that year. I listened and learned to blend in with the first horn. Together, we played like one horn. That year, after playing horn for 3 months, I made 2nd chair All District band... again. This time, right behind the first chair player from my school. Again, the Plaza Jr orange Blazers ruled the All district band.
Picking an instrument is a process that is different for everyone. I didn't get to pick my first instrument, but it introduced me to a whole new world that I had no access to without an instrument. So, don't put too much emphasis on what instrument to start out on. Just pick one that interests you. If you don't like it, you can always pick another one!
If you or musician you know is considering attending college and is interested in a music scholarship, consider our College Scholarship Audition Prep Lessons.