The reluctant musician
Having grown from the most reluctant member of the church band to a proud daddy, Andreas hopes for better for his sons.
(Tammy Gardner)
I have a fraught relationship with musical instruments. Ever since I was handed my first recorder, my attempts at making music using anything more complicated than a CD player, rather than being joyful occasions, have conjured up emotions normally reserved for trench warfare. Hours of torture and tedium, punctuated by moments of unmitigated horror.

I don’t blame my parents for any of it. They felt that they had missed out big time when they didn’t learn to play an instrument as kids and they didn’t want me to miss out, too. As a dutiful son, I thought I’d better go along with things, but obviously something went wrong somewhere along the way. The irony is that today I can’t play any instruments, I feel exactly the same way my parents did back then and both of our sons, Josef,10, and Benjamin, 8, now play the recorder.

In high school I reluctantly graduated from the recorder to the piano. My misery was alleviated somewhat by the fact that I took piano lessons together with my cousin Uki. She may actually have had a smidgeon more talent than me, but she made up for it by showing even less enthusiasm than I did.

A bare five minutes’ practice on a Tuesday evening made my woeful efforts during Wednesday’s lesson sound like Chopin when compared to her monkey-on-a-barstool impression. At least that’s what I thought and as long as I did better than Uki, I’d done my job.

Thinking back to those days, I feel deeply sorry for our poor piano teacher who came to our little town once a week to endure us butchering everything from This Old Man to Für Elise. The odd occasion when he couldn’t come because he was sick always made my week and in hindsight I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d made his, too.

The final musical interlude of my youth was also the least glamorous. Don’t ask me how my awkward teenage self ended up playing the least sexy instrument - the tenor horn, which looks and sounds a bit like a miniature tuba - in the least sexy ensemble in town - the church brass band.

There may be some allure in playing a baby grand, but, take my word for it, there’s none in playing a baby tuba. For years I stumbled about on the lower registers of numerous hymns while the blokes and the occasional girl on the trumpets and trombones got all the glory until I finally aborted my musical career by owning up to my folks: I was not having any fun.

Considering my long and painful misadventures with musical instruments, it should come as little surprise that I’m quite apprehensive about Joey and Ben’s own budding efforts. Of course I’d love for them to learn how to play several instruments, but what’s foremost on my mind is not making the same mistakes my parents and I made.

So far so good. They have the nicest and gentlest recorder teacher imaginable and I chat to them often about whether they are still having fun. Obviously there needs to be some genuine commitment on their part, but without actual enjoyment it’s a lost cause.

Josef has recently decided to move on to the clarinet and later perhaps the saxophone, not because my wife Sam and I suggested it, but because he loves the sound they make. All I can say at this stage is that that’s way, way sexier than the tenor horn.

What are your family experiences of learning to play musical instruments?

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