Despite the name of my site name being “orangetrombone” I don’t think I’ve really ever discussed my being a trombone player with a music degree. I have Music B.A. from the University of Minnesota – I call it the “I LIKE MUSIC” degree because really, like the Avenue Q song goes, “What do you do with a B.A. in English? (insert Music)”
I got the degree because I originally wanted to be a teacher which turned into a music teacher/band director, which was taking a long time, and it turns out I kinda suck at theory, so when they revamped the B.A. to be more versatile (aka, easier) and less like I was working to become a composer, I went that route and finally got the heck out of college. I do still want to go back to school and become a teacher: the more I sit at my desk “helping” people the more I dream of getting out and actually HELPING people, and get rid of those pesky quotation marks.
I am glad that I got this degree, though. It’s definitely different than anyone else I know in StL. So, great conversation starter at the very least . . . but really I feel like the hours I spent in a practice room, listening to my music history pieces, and struggling through the demon-theory are well worth it, especially since I can claim to have a degree in something that I’ve loved and been raised with, even if it’s been relegated to hobby-status. Because music, and really being a trombone player, in many ways defines me.
Being a trombone player, especially a female trombonist, is special in the band/instrumental world. It is definitely a bit of a tomboy instrument growing up since it’s big and loud and has the word “bone” in it, which never fails to be followed up with Beevis & Butthead-esque tittering (heeheehee “tit”!) The sections I’ve been in from middle school through high school, college, and now in community band were/are dominated by nerd-boys, usually tall, lanky geeks who also know how to fix your computer, which has definitely come in handy.
Because of this male-domination, being a “bone babe” means toeing the fine line between lady/mom and being “one of the guys.” You have to be okay with sick, dumb jokes while you make sure they have their marching shoes and be an awesome kick-a** girl. Bone babes are rarely butch since most of us LIKE guys, though if you dig the chicks that’s totally cool too. The point is, even while one of the “guys” you have to occasionally remind these boys that, while you’ll take care of them with cookies and slide oil, you are not their mom and they need to treat you well and like a girl every once in a while.
When my dad decided I would play trombone, he convinced me by telling me that “bone women” were to coolest girls in the band, super laid back, funny, and always the best players. I was sold. I was lucky, too, to have a best friend and fellow bone babe right from the get-go who shared my love of dirty jokes and being B.A. with a capital B. Courtney and I had the best time all through middle school and high school, and our senior year we were the only girls in the Marching Band trombone section, and our boys loved us. We made them locker signs and treats and it was the only year we bothered to take a group picture. The trombone trio of the wind ensemble my senior year was also the most fun I had in high school band, me and my two boys that I sat between, Mike and Steve. We definitely got in trouble for talking too much, though we rarely missed an entrance, an art Courtney and I had refined from age 11.
It wasn’t until I decided to pursue music in college, though, that playing my trombone really took precedence over my band social life. “Bando’s” in my high school had a completely different schedule in high school, so all of my best friends were either in band or in another performance activity I did after school. I had enough natural talent to keep me going with little to no practice outside of class, and that was just fine with me. But college is where I hit my stride in playing, and thank goodness I did, or I would have never completed my degree. Lessons and your studio are a huge chunk of your credits, at least at the UofM. I was in the UofM Marching Band, which, again, took very little effort on my part as far as playing went most of the time. So, it wasn’t until I decided to audition for the School of Music in my sophomore year that I really learned to love the “bone” part of being a bone babe.
I started taking lessons with John Tranter , and he is hands down the best music teacher I’ve ever had. I don’t know what it was, but I felt like he both cared about my growth as a musician and at the same time knew how to cut through the crap without making me feel like dirt. If I didn’t practice enough he knew it, though he rarely got more than stern in his tone. So I strove to please him, and along the way I fell in love with my playing. Now I was making time to practice 2-3 hours a night, sometimes 5 if I fell behind or was working on something difficult. My first jury (basically your final test in your lessons, performing full solo pieces) I felt truly proud of my playing ability. I realized I hadn’t really felt that way since I was little, and it was such a high. To know that you can really do something well, that you performed at the top of your game all by yourself, that was something I had never done on my trombone. It was weird to think that I had defined myself by this instrument for so long without actually loving the instrument itself, rather, just the culture.
Now, playing in my community band, my trombone has again taken a backseat in my life – a bit literally since it often sits in the trunk of my car waiting for Wednesday night rehearsal. I hope to someday return to it, and I get a glimpse of that high with each performance, but it does feel like I’ve let the musician in me down. It’s at those times that I pull out my diploma, and know that I’ve truly accomplished something in my musical career: I am a bone babe, now and forever, and that’s not something that can be taken away from me.
It also comes in handy when I tell people they have poor taste in music: Trust me, I have a B.A. in Music 🙂