I am one of those lucky people who is extremely fortunate to be living the dream and working in a job, which I enjoy immensely, hopefully bring pleasure to many, giving opportunities to travel the world (Hamburg, Germany this week with the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh!), meet lots of interesting people and see some wonderful sights and ultimately get paid for the privilege.
Those are the perks. The downside features are the long, unsociable hours, particularly working evenings and weekends, the endless hours travelling to and from jobs and the volatility of work “feast or famine”. One minute not knowing what day it is and where you are meant to be next, followed by “Diary drought”, not knowing where the next job is going to come from. Despite all that, I know that there are many other trades and professions who share these issues and have much greater hardships to endure, so I’ll stop moaning. I wouldn’t change a thing, as I know I am extremely blessed to be doing what I do.
You would think though, that having now played the Trumpet and Cornet for just over 40 years (gulp!), that the need to practice was long gone and one could just get on with it, until finally deciding to “hang up one’s mouthpiece”. Alas, no!
“He’s not practicing again?” is the usual comment when someone pops round or rings the house, as the obligatory scales, lip-flexibility and technical exercises are rolled out, with religious necessity. Why? Well, put simply, being a brass player is just like being an athlete. Ok so we haven’t got the physique of Usain Bolt or George North (I wish!), but one must not only maintain and strive to improve standards, but ensure that lips muscles are kept strong and flexible to ensure good stamina and accuracy.
Co-ordination skills (fingers and tongue) and lung capacity when not breathing/blowing so intensely also go out of the window after any significant time off.
“So what is a significant period?” I hear you ask.
For me, I work on the old saying “Miss a day and you know about it. Miss 2 days and your friends know about it. Miss 3 days and every bugger knows about it!”. Sad but true I’m afraid. everything goes out of the window if I go more than a few days without putting the “hooter on my chops” for at least 20-30 minutes each day. I do have friends and colleagues however, who I know can go weeks without blowing a note and get away with it, with no apparent lack of quality or consistency. I hate them all for their good fortune!!!
Apart from athletes, how many other professions require that level of application I wonder? Do carpenters go down the shed every day to do a dovetail joint, or a chef pop in to the kitchen to work on a Beef Wellington ?
In the meantime, I will continue to count my lucky stars that I’m in a profession that I’m passionate about and hope that my “necessary” daily practise, allows me to stay in that role for many, many years to come.
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