My Third Grader Is Learning the Recorder Because the Universe Hates Me

The third graders are learning to play the recorder as is, apparently, protocol designed by someone who works for the Evanston/Skokie school district by day and sprouts horns and fangs and drinks the blood of the innocent by night.

Yes. I know it’s you, Beelzebub.  I know where you work now. 

Every day Bunny insists upon practicing her recorder in front of me so that I can legitimately and knowingly sign off on her practice sheet.  I have explained that the sound carries for a full city block and would do so even if we were outside on a crowded street during rush hour and that I can hear her perfectly well even when sequestered in my bedroom with a towel over my head.  Still, Bunny pauses if I get more than 8 feet from her while she’s playing and then resumes when I am back lest I miss anything.

Oh, recorder.  You asshole. 

A recorder is not a real musical instrument.  A real musical instrument is made of metal or wood and has keys that have been meticulously adjusted to produce just the right note.  It has pads and reeds.  Real instruments are things your parents have to rent for you from the music store until they have paid thousands of dollars and you finally own it - at which point your skill has improved to the point where you require an upgrade to something better.  A real instrument is something that becomes horribly damaged when the bass drum player in front of you in the bleachers accidentally sits on it and your furious mother takes you to the music store and has to pay a couple hundred bucks to have some skilled professional carefully reshape the bell.*

Bass drummers can sit on recorders all they like.  Nothing will happen to the damn thing.  It’s made of plastic and cost $5.  You can stick it in the dishwasher.  You can run over it with your car.  It has a half-life of 9,807, 974, 432.5 years.

Bunny is not bad at the recorder.  Actually, she’s quite good.  Unfortunately, it still sounds like a recorder and therein lies the crux of the problem.

Bunny can make it through 6 minutes of relentless recorder blowing until the thing starts squeaking and screeching as if someone was about to make fois gras out of it.

She finds the squeaking frustrating so that last four minutes of practice each day sounds like this:

“Doot doot SQUEAK Ugh!  Doot doot SCREECH What is wrong with this thing?! Doot doot SPLAT This thing is broken!  It’s just broken!  MOM!  Doot doot dooooooooooSCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”

It occurred to me during those final four minutes today that it probably had to do with her embouchure.  I imagine that she is using mouth muscles she isn’t accustomed to using and they begin to tire as she plays and by minute six they are not holding her mouth in the exact right shape she needs to play the recorder without squeaking.  I thought that I would advise her to just keep at it and her lips would grow increasingly strong and, eventually, she’d be able to play for a half hour or so without tiring.

And then I thought WHAT ARE YOU, CRAZY?!?!

Blissfully, the kitchen timer went off and my eyes refocused and I applauded and signed the sheet with a flourish (I’m really quite good at initialing - Bunny says so) and began herding everyone off to brush teeth and choose stories.  The nasty beige plastic germ-carrying non-instrument was placed lovingly back in its faux vinyl zippered pouch until tomorrow….

and tomorrow….and tomorrow….and tomorrow....

I’m comin’ for you, Lucifer.  I have a recorder in one hand and a thin plastic wand with a small loop that has a scrap of terry cloth threaded through it in the other and I am not leaving your tiny district office until I’m satisfied.


*It was a mellophone.  I mean, it’s not like I set a piccolo down on that bleacher.  It was a mellophone.  HOW do you not see it?!  My mom was soooooooo mad, you guys.
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