I have played the flute since I was in the fourth grade. I would like to tell you that I chose the flute for some amazing reason like a call from God or an affection for some stirring piece of classical music. What actually transpired was when the music instructor asked me which instrument I wanted to play I looked at all the cases I might have to lug around and chose the one that was the smallest. I'm no dummy.
I played flute through high school. My senior year I quit the band in order to take a drama class that conflicted with the band class time. Since I wasn't playing in an organized band (and consequently my grade didn't depend upon it) I stopped practicing. When I moved into the dorm in college I didn't even bother to take my flute with me.
My brother decided to go to South America on a University exchange program and had to raise some quick cash to pay his air fare. Since I wasn't currently using my flute, he decided that he could pawn it, which he did. I never forgave him. Well not for a good long while anyway -- but don't tell him that, I might still be able to milk a few guilt gifts out of him, you never know.
To be really honest I didn't miss playing the flute all those years I didn't play, but when folk groups with guitars and flutes and other instruments would play at Liturgy I would feel a pang of regret that I couldn't offer my gift to the parish in that way.
(pause to allow the more conservative readers time to groan about folk music at Liturgy)
About two years ago I mentioned at a professional meeting that I would love to start playing the flute again, and had actually been pricing flutes at the local music store where my daughter was taking viola lessons, but a new flute was just entirely out of my budget for the foreseeable future. Someone at that particular meeting happened to have a flute that had belonged to her daughter who had played in high school but had left it behind when she went to college and didn't want it anymore, having moved on to a much nicer quality instrument. She was willing to sell me this perfectly serviceable instrument for well within my price range.
So here I was, a 44 year old woman with a flute who hadn't actually played a flute in about 20 years. I was really bad, but with some determination and a beginners fingering chart I began to catch on pretty quickly. After a year of working on my own I actually began to take lessons, realizing that I would never get really good unless I had someone who knew what they were doing to tell me what I was doing wrong.
Once a week I take lessons from a wonderful teacher who has no problem telling me when I totally suck. But she also tells me when I am doing a good job. With her help I have gained the confidence I needed to join with my fellow students at St Meinrad and play for Liturgy.
Each weekend that we have a Gradual School Class since last spring, we have had a Liturgy at which a group of us have provided the music with yours truly on the flute. It has completely transformed my understanding of the importance of music in Liturgy. It has helped me to become so much more attentive to the entire process of the Liturgy, and don't even get me started on how transformational entering into the Liturgy has become for me since I have been playing music.
This month the Liturgical Music coordinator, an amazing woman in our class, has chosen a beautiful song for us to play that I absolutely love, but so far after weeks of practice I still can't play. It is in 6/8 time and for some reason my head can't wrap itself around the key signature. I can play all the right notes, I just can play them at the right time.
So I practice. Each night I practice, like prayer I offer my failings and wrong timing up to God. And when I get it wrong I start again.
Maybe this is why Augustine said singing is like praying twice, because with all the practice it takes twice as long. But in the end it will be worth all of the effort.
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