Trumpet & Discrimination
Posted on 18. February 2016
My brother and I thought the next step, after him teaching me, was to play the trumpet in our church brass band. Unfortunately, there was a problem: I am a girl.
My parents were never big on sending us to extra-curricular classes to foster a sport or a creative talent. This left the six of us to just find ourselves and if we wanted to do something, we needed to find a way to make it happen. This was a valuable lesson I learned, although I would probably encourage you to foster talents in your children when you discover them! When we were teenagers my brother – one year younger than me – started to learn the trumpet for the church brass band. I don’t know why he made this decision. It was so noisy that the only way to escape it was to leave the house and go out.
Then I thought, why not try it? It wouldn’t hurt to try something new and it gave me something to do. My brother had an extra trumpet from church lying around, so we went off and played together. Never understanding music notes and what these lines were for, he had to start with the basics. I am talking BASIC. Like music literature: Notes, beat, tempo, tenor and soprano, alto and base. Amazingly, he managed to get it in my head! As if in a dream, I look back and appreciate what a foundation he laid for me and how much those afternoons would impact the rest of my life. We had a great time practicing together. My brother had a knack of teaching me complicated things very fast and really well. I believe he would have been a great teacher today. Read more about my brother here.
I developed a good ear. Each time we played I would perfect what I did and I totally enjoyed each success and every piece I mastered. After playing the last note I would beam at him with a big smile with the mouth piece imprint still on my lips and he would grin back at me equally excited about my success. What a special time that was and how I wish I could play with him again.
We started to master each challenge and soon I was playing soprano, him alto, and I could play for 2h straight and not get tired, going higher and higher (higher notes = harder to play). If you are not a brass instrument player then you might not know that you train your lip muscles and breathing each time you play. The stronger you get the better your playing gets. It’s physical exercise! But boy do your lips get smooth and wonderful. No plastic surgery needed to enhance your lips 😉
Not thinking there was anything special about what we did, just simply enjoying it, we thought the next step was playing in our church brass band. Unfortunately, there was a problem: I am a girl. Women weren’t playing brass instruments at church. I didn’t know I challenged decades of tradition and sexist thinking. They told me I wouldn’t be able to play. I felt helpless, unfairly treated, angry, sad beyond measure, as though I had failed my brother, useless and hurt. They did eventually change their mind and I was allowed to play, but I had to endure more discrimination. I have no idea why I kept going back and doing it all with a smile. God gave me the grace. A gift. Another lesson I had to learn that I didn’t know I needed to learn.
Once I was allowed to play in the brass band it was on the condition that I had to take months and months of lessons with the conductor. From my point of view, it was completely unnecessary because my brother had already taught it all to me. I was ready. They were not. My brother went along to each lesson! Guess what the next guy joining the band didn’t have to do: Take practice lessons with the conductor for months on end.
I can’t be mad anymore about what happened. They were so comfortable in their place and never sought to think beyond that. They were upholding what they knew and didn’t care for another’s soul, nor show love + support to another instrument player. This was the first time I experienced discriminated because of who I was. There was nothing I could do about being a girl. I couldn’t fix the situation because the problem wasn’t me. It was something I had to live with at that time.
What it taught me is that humans like to put people in boxes. Nice and neat and precisely how they want to see you. The moment you challenge what their view of their world is, they will fight it. Most people do this by hurting, lashing out and restricting the person who is challenging their thinking. Others naively continue on their way in their small world. I am happy knowing that many people never need to experience discrimination and what it can do to your core. I have spoken about this only with my husband before now. He had difficulty understanding what I meant and what it does to you. Many others have experienced much more severe mistreatment that has impacted their life, education or how they live in a very fundamental way. I feel for everyone who has felt what I felt, less, more or a lot more than me. I feel you!
Definitions of discrimination [google.com]
noun: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
victims of racial discrimination
synonyms: prejudice, bias, bigotry, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, unfairness, inequity, …
I did continue to play trumpet for many more years with my brother, husband and other church brass bands and met many wonderful people through it. Less discriminating and more friendly! I still have that scar that sometimes starts to hurt when the weather changes. Now I choose more carefully who I surround myself with. I will stand up and walk the other way if someone decides to discriminate. I do not want a part of it. I pray and hope that I will never discriminate against others based on race, age or sex. If I ever do out of my ignorance please educate me and I ask for your forgiveness.
The trumpet you see here is the one I used to play on after my old congregation took away the original I had learned on. This didn’t stop me! The trumpet in the photographs belonged to my grandpa! I LOVE it. I had it properly serviced and restored it to its former glory. I photographed it in front of my grandma’s wardrobe. Together again at last. More about my grandma here.
I don’t play anymore. I’m worried it would bother my neighbours but I kept my mouth piece. That’s the personal part that you buy according to your instrument and lips. There are a million different to choose from and it took me a while to find the one that suited me best. My brother gifted it to me.
I’m eternally grateful for teachers who make you feel like you can achieve anything, are enthralled with you for every little success, and push you forward to reach your personal best and despite any challenges, stay with you through it all.