It’s spring where I am, allegedly. A freak flurry the other day sent everyone scurrying for hats and coats, but still, plants are starting to bloom, and it’s time to start cutting grass again.
So it’s time for spring cleaning, and it occurred to me that I’ve accumulated a rather motley collection of musical instruments over the course of time.
I’ve already told you about The Piano That Does 11. It finds companionship with an 88-key Yamaha keyboard neatly placed between my kitchen and family room. My kids have been known to sit and improvise or play a few tunes while waiting for dinner. I enjoy that so much, I’m disinclined to move it. Sometimes they used it for practice with headphones, and I challenged myself to try to identify the piece by the rhythm of the keystrokes.
Its upstairs compatriot is a smaller, much older keyboard that found its way to my home office for those nights when music strikes and The Piano That Does 11 is completely unsuitable. A recent rummage in the office led to dropping of items on the keyboard, causing it to turn on and play an ominous chord. Alright, alright, I’ll be more careful next time!
The basement is the home of the loud instruments: an antique bass drum from a defunct pipe and drum corps, the drumheads thinly worn in spots, though still intact; a snare drum, cymbals that have seen better days, plastic school recorders, a handful of harmonicas (my mother’s—she kept one, and she can still play a few songs from memory), two ram’s horns (which my father used for the sole purpose of confusing the dog) and a child’s toy concertina (gift-giving advice: never buy children anything that makes them louder or faster). If I rummage enough, there’s probably a few kazoos as well, though I’m not sure if one can call that a musical instrument.
Then there’s the saxophone. It had belonged to a friend of my great-aunt, and it had had a long and storied life before it eventually came to me. It has a wonderful mellow tone, and in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, I’m sure it’s magical.
Sadly, I am not that person.
However, that’s not to say that it hasn’t been entertaining. I did learn to play a few songs my father liked. And as a teen I developed a ridiculous routine to amuse my great-aunt, my benefactor, that used to leave her helpless with laughter. I’d set up the music stand loosely…it would slide down to its lowest position. After bending and twisting, I’d kneel and start playing a tune, adding the occasional reed squeak for good effect (I say this as if it were intentional). Shaking my head, I’d stop, try to fix the stand, and put it in its absolute highest position. On tiptoe, I’d peer at the music, shake my head, then get a chair, stand on it and play…at which point it would slowly start to slide down again, and I’d contort myself following it. By this point I was usually musically accompanied by the dog who was confused by the ram’s horns. It was quite the scene.
If you have an instrument lying around that you haven’t played in a while, maybe from when you played at school, why not dust it off and give it a try? And if you decide it’s time for it to find a new home, check if a school in your area accepts donations—you could make a difference to a student who can’t afford to get their own instrument. If you live near New York City, there’s an instrument drive going on right now. Here’s a list of US organizations that take instrument donations.
Or just search on “donate musical instruments” and you’re sure to find a charity in your area.