Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's in Your Closet?


What’s in your closet?  Well, in my closet I have: an African drum called a Djembe, two Chinese flower drums, hand drums of various sizes, a rain stick from Bali, a stringed instrument from Thailand called a sueng, pan-pipes from Peru, recorders of all sizes, a two headed drum from India called a dhol, a tambourine from Turkey called a daf, glockenspiel, xylophones, metallophones, harmonicas in various keys, a jaw harp, a banjo, a guitar, an electric bass, two Yamaha synthesizers, a portable Hammond organ, an accordion and most recently an acoustic/electric mandolin.

I guess you could say that I’m a collector of instruments, or, as my husband says, an instrument whore.  I can’t seem to own enough instruments.  My weakness are the folk instruments like the accordion and flutes that are so universal.

I am a kindergarten through 8th grade general music teacher.  My students are accustomed to me playing different types of instruments in our music lessons.  They learn how to play small patterns of rhythm, melody and harmony (ostinati) on xylophones and metallophones, and various kinds of percussion and how to play as an ensemble and therefore accompany themselves in school programs.  I enjoy introducing  different kinds of instruments and showing them how they work.  I don’t always know how to play the instrument but that never stops me.

Some years ago I was teaching in an East Bay private school and had a particularly surly and uncooperative group of 8th graders.  There were 42 of them!  One day I brought in a case and just set it down in front of the class making no mention of it.  Naturally hands went up . . . “what’s in the case?”  My response, “Oh this?  Let’s get through the lesson today and IF there is time, I’ll show you.”  That was the most cooperative, attentive and productive lesson we ever had.  The time came for the unveiling of the mystery.  I hoisted up the case onto a desk -- whew! It was so heavy!  I clicked open the clasps -- you could have heard a pin drop.  I slowly opened the case and pulled out . . . . an enormous concert sized accordion!  The gasps, the woe’s, and then the realization “hey, that’s what Erkel plays!”  I showed them how it worked and we took turns wearing it (especially the boys because it was so heavy), pushing buttons, and pulling on the bellows.  I asked them if they thought I could play the accordion and they all said “NO WAY” and I said, “true but is that going to stop me from playing for you?”  they said “NO WAY”.

In Fleetwood Mask, the opportunity to play mandolin on a a couple songs has come up.  I have a mandolin now.  Do I know how to play it?  Not really!  Will that stop me from playing it?  NO WAY!  Now I need to find out how to squeeze in bagpipes.  I don’t have those yet and I MUST have them!

Barbara Martin

2 comments:

  1. Barb! Fantastic!! Love the accordion story!!

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  2. Bagpipes could be cool. But I know a few songs that lend themselves to a full marching band as backing instruments. Any Tuba's in that closet?

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