Saturday, January 14, 2012

Matt Torrey's & The Pickleback Band

Says the band director to the wind symphony: "Hey everybody, after rehearsal we all go over to Matt Torrey's bar." [He points to the principal percussionist.]

I have joined the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. For 11 years, such an ensemble did not interest me but then, this season, a change. I'd been trying to get back into horn playing but with work, songwriting, life, etc., I kept letting it go. What better way to keep my chops in decent shape than to join an ensemble, right? And how nice that P.J., a tubist from undergrad, had moved to NYC and was playing in the band.

What I'd forgotten or underestimated or simply not anticipated was just how friendly a community of musicians can be. I approached Grand Street High School wearing my horn backpack, and before I'd even crossed the street from the L station, three musicians had introduced themselves to me and one had asked me to join a brass quintet. I entered the halls of the school to that age-old warm-up cacaphony and numerous passersby smiled at me as they sucked on reeds and assembled their instruments.

My 8-years-in-NYC-default-response was: Why is everybody being so nice? What gives?

I was immediately processed, shuffled over to the principal hornist for evaluation, handed music for 4th horn, and seated last chair. (FAIR.) The principal, having taken a large chunk of years off of the horn earlier in life, didn't have to hear me play to know that my chops would need the lowest part possible to convalesce.

Within minutes we were reading Blue Lake Overture, Symphony No. 2, Elegy, and Incantation and Dance, for the all John Barnes Chance concert honoring what would have been his 80th birthday. As band-y as band can get. And there I sat, next to the saxophones, like the band kid I've always been.

At Matt Torrey's after rehearsal, I learned that my fellow 4th hornist studied at the University of Miami when I was living there for my first years of teaching and we'd run with the same crowd but never met. Another fellow hornist asked me why I decided to start playing again. I told her that I realized a couple of years ago that my husband and my friends in Miami and New York had never heard me play music that they didn't know me as a musician and it felt very strange to me. Her response was better than any words I'd put on it:
I know! It's such a part of identity, isn't it? Like, you walk around knowing yourself to be a hornist, even if you haven't played in months or years! I joined the band a year ago and it was such a relief, like I'd immediately found my people: the band kids.
It was about then that a round of about 25 signature "pickleback" shots were ordered and distributed a shot of Old Crow bourbon chased with a shot of McClure's spicy pickle brine and I was officially initiated into the pickleback band. 

1 comment:

  1. Don't fret last chair. You won't be there next cycle. Everyone rotates there sooner or later. I know you'll be awesome!