First Words

Looking for constancy when routines are disrupted

I’ve been thinking about a French horn teacher I once had.

Twelve years ago, I decided to revive my interest in the French horn by signing up for private lessons. What better way to end the illusion of being a horn player than to get serious and put money behind all the talk?

With the eagerness of a fifth-grade band student, I loaded up my favorite practice books into the dusty horn case and headed for the teacher’s studio. I chose this particular teacher because he was the principal horn player in the symphony. We chatted as he inspected my instrument. After handing it back to me, he asked me to play a sustained note. I did so, only to hear him ask for the same thing over and over again. “As steady and long as you can this time,” he would say repeatedly. I was eager to show off my range and speed. He wanted to hear single notes played for long stretches of time.

I wrote my $75 check for this half hour session and asked him if I should practice chord progressions for next time. He replied, “No, just practice long notes and good breath support.” When my second lesson assumed the same pattern as the first, I decided I was done paying for this sophisticated method of learning.