A talented musician I will never be - Valerie Baldowski

I have just been reminded again that as far as where my talents lie, playing a musical instrument isn't one of them.

At least, if I have any musical talent at all, it has lain dormant all these years. I recently had the most wonderful experience of being able to attend a performance of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I love classical music, and I hadn't been to a symphony in years. But with the first note, waves of childhood memories began to wash over me.

My mother, although she never learned to read music, played the piano by ear. She was really quite good, and encouraged me to take up a musical instrument. Because we already had a piano in the house, she tried to interest me in playing it. But, I guess, as is common with many children, I would not have anything to do with it.

One piano player in the house was enough, I reasoned. One of my older brothers and my cousin, quite unlike me, showed plenty of promise. My brother taught himself to play the 12-string guitar, and my cousin was motivated enough to learn how to play the piano, just so he could play a piece of music by George Gershwin.

My mother had enrolled my other brother, who had shown a brief interest in saxophone, in a few lessons before he lost interest. She made the mistake of buying a saxophone outright, instead of renting one. Because she was stuck with it, she tried her best to interest me in learning to play the saxophone. Again, no go. I decided one day (I still don't know what made me decide to do this) I wanted to play the trombone. I was insistent, so my mother finally gave in and took me for a few trombone lessons.

It was a good thing she didn't buy one, because that endeavor did not last long. My arm was too short to reach all the way out, so many of the notes, I couldn't hit. I will always remember my grandmother, listening to me practice in the evenings, convulsed in uproarious laughter as I tried my best to play an instrument that just didn't fit.

The only instrument I had an abiding interest in playing was one my mother took a stand against. One summer, while visiting my grandmother in Rhode Island, I overheard a local drum and bugle corps play. After hearing only a few mesmerizing beats, I decided I wanted more than anything else to learn to play the drums. I begged, I pleaded, I had my heart set on that, but it was a lost cause. My mother and I never saw eye to eye on that issue. I dreamt of taking drum lessons, but alas, parental opposition was too much.

A few years later, in high school, I halfheartedly tried guitar after seeing others play them so well, but the strings hurt my fingers and I gave that up quickly. To add insult to injury, one of my classmates had played the cello for years, and was quite good at it. So good, in fact, I remember seeing her play a few times in Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performances. Another classmate learned to play the banjo, and was quite popular at parties. Ahhh, to be musically gifted.

Thinking all these thoughts while listening to the strings, the brass, the woodwinds and the percussion sections all blending together so perfectly and beautifully, with the harmony so precise it was scientifically and mathematically pure, reinforced my respect for those individuals who work so hard to achieve that level of musical skill. I will begrudge them nothing, and will always admire them. On the other hand, I wonder what would've happened if I had pursued my interest in drums.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.