Following the Forks in the Road

My ten-year high school reunion just happened this past weekend, and this got me thinking back to that time in my life. Believe it or not, I was preparing to have an international touring career with Synergy Brass, and later to form the Phoenix Chamber Brass, when I was in eighth grade. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was.

Like most good stories, this one starts with a girl. When I was in eighth-grade math class I met a girl. I don’t know what it was about her, but she really stole my middle-school heart. After flirting with her in class I found out that she was in the band at our school. I had been playing piano for quite some time at that point but had never thought of being in the band. She and I were going to the same high school the next year, so it seemed like the most logical idea was for me to …

• Join the high school band.

• Win this girl’s heart.

• And live happily ever after.

So that’s what I did. At least the joining band part.

Now, because I knew literally nothing about what I had signed up for, I completely missed the summer band camp most schools have to prepare for the school year. I strolled into the bandroom on the first day of school and the band director looked at me as if I were a stranger in a very strange land, probably thinking I got lost on my way to gym class. After a few awkward minutes as he looked through class rosters, he asked me what I’d like to play.

My first choice was percussion.

Nope. The section was already full.

Second choice—trombone. (I have no idea why. Maybe it looked cool?)

Well, that was an option. But …

My band director informed me that several tuba players were going to graduate at the end of the year, and that it would be really helpful if I played the tuba. I wasn’t too keen on the idea at first (considering what the general stereotype of tuba players is), but I eventually gave it a shot after I realized colleges also graduated tuba players regularly, so there was an endless demand for them. There might even be scholarship money involved. Because, let’s face it, tuba wasn’t anyone’s first choice, right?

Fast forward several years and many forks in the road and you will arrive at Synergy Brass, and then after a few more forks you’re here with me today writing this blog.

If in the very beginning I had talked myself out of joining band because I had never done it before, my whole life would be different. At each step of the way there was a fork in the road: signing up for band, playing tuba, traveling far away from home to study in Arizona, joining a group despite being in the middle of a degree program. At each fork there was often an easier, less scary route—and there was the route that struck off into unknown territory. Where would I be if I had chosen all the safe, easy, predictable forks? I’d rather not know.

We are always afraid to strike out into musical territory we don’t understand. Worse yet, we often shun those opportunities out of fear, because they are foreign to us. Yet rarely are people rewarded for taking the easy path, for maintaining the status quo, for doing the same thing they have always done before. The real fun in life begins when we strike out down the road less traveled. That road can be scary and difficult, but it will take you places you never thought you could go before.

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