Marching toward loving my inner critic.
A few articles ago, I told you about playing Christmas carols on my horn in Kim’s garage.
At that time, I didn’t know that she’d cajole me into joining a marching band.
This article is about my first time at marching band practice, a few months ago.
The above picture shows me in my first marching band performance on July 16.
I hear “You shouldn’t be here,” as I drive my 2018 White Honda Odyssey to Glencoe High School’s parking lot (in Hillsboro) to my first meeting as the newest member of The Rose City Pride Marching Band.
It’s the voice in my head. My inner critic—who is an asshole.
Today will be my first marching band practice.
I’ve only been playing the French horn since right before lock-down.
But, I still expect perfection.
As a kid, I played flute but that was in a very stationary interschool orchestra.
“You are going to make everyone sound worse,” the voice says as I roll the windows down so I can hear my way to figure out exactly where the practice is.
“And,” it adds, “you don’t even know where you are supposed to go.”
It’s right. I don’t know where I’m supposed to be.
I hear no music and see no flag twirlers.
Just a baseball game underway and parents cheering.
An act of God.
I can leave.
It’s a sign.
I’m not supposed to be here.
I put the car in reverse.
“Dummy,” the voice says.
But, then, from the not yet rolled up window I hear, in the distance, from down the hill, the oompah of a tuba.
A ragtag group of instrumentalists watch me and my horn walk towards them.
“You better pretend to be confident,” the voice says as I pre-hearse what I’m going to share when, if—I’m assuming when,—I’m asked to introduce myself.
I’m an extrovert. And, to be honest, I kinda enjoy feeling near to out of control in social situations—like a thrill seeker on a rollercoaster—minus the motion sickness.
Gary, a man with a clipboard—it’s always the person with the clipboard—greets me warmly and asks me to introduce myself.
“I’m Brian, and I’m here because of two things: (1) my teacher’s overestimation of my abilities and (2) my general lack of shame.”
“Oh, wonderful, a horn,” Jenny, the woman who I’ll find out is the conductor says, “There’s a horn solo at the start of ‘Freedom.’”
The motion sickness kicks in.
I do not play every note in each measure.
No one cares.
They see me as additive.
I struggle with that.
Because I’m used to the voice telling me I make things worse.
Standing in the sun I practice my not-yet-mastered compassionate response to my inner critic: “I thank you for trying to help me improve and keep from embarrassment.”
I almost believe it.
I don’t know how I didn’t think this morning that marching would be something I’d be practicing today.
But I didn’t.
Jenny lines us up in four rows of four. Flutes, clarinets, trumpets, mellophones, French horns, the one tuba and some trombones.
Jasper, an affable man on the tuba who has been in bands for years coaches me between breaths and measures:
“Always start marching with your left.”
“Larger heels—keep them up.”
“Stay in step.”
When he begins to give me one more suggestion, I say “I appreciate your coaching, but I’m at cognitive overload right now. I can’t take in any more input.”
I make a mental note to use that same line with my internal critic.