11.17.2009

Trombone + Vocation

In a few days, I will play the trombone in public for the first time in eleven years.

When I was very young, I fell in love with the trombone. I even made my own little plastic version out of a sock hanger and a hair roller, and would march around the house pretending to play. When the time finally came that all the fifth graders got to roam through the Echo Hills gymnasium and try all the different instruments out, I halfheartedly blew into the trumpet and clarinet until it was my turn at the big brass.

I loved playing trombone. I rarely had opportunities to feel cool in elementary and middle school, but being a girl trombone player was one of them. I never practiced much, and any success I had at the instrument was due to my musical genes. But hanging out with the other trombone players was always so much fun - especially when I finally got to be in band with Helen and Joy, the super-cool girl trombone players a year older than I.

All that being said, after my last Wind Ensemble concert my senior year of high school, I did not really expect to play the instrument again. By that point I had figured out that guitar or piano were more legitimately cool instruments. (None of my singer-songwriter albums featured trombone.)

And then in July, I received an unexpected gift in the middle of our Joys and Concerns time at church: a brand new silver trombone.

The gift came from a formerly homeless member of the congregation who plays trumpet. After he was ticketed for playing on the Redondo Beach Pier without a permit, our former music director invited him to play his trumpet in worship (we knew him because he was a regular at our weekly free breakfast). A year or so after he began playing in worship, he decided he wanted to get off the streets, and as part of that process he wanted to formally join the church. We quickly helped him find a great program, and he has been living in a safe and stable environment ever since.

His roommate's family had owned an instrument shop, and still had a treasure trove of inventory that they had never sold off... including a silver trombone.

G. presented it to me in worship just before my birthday over the summer, and after some dusting up of my embouchure, we're playing We Gather Together for the offertory on Sunday.

I'm not a huge fan of the "everything happens for a reason" theory of the universe. But I do think that the disparate strands of our lives can be woven together into discernible patterns, and just as patterns create beauty in music, they can illuminate the beauty in our own lives. My background as a trombone player now feels like a part of my vocation, and playing trombone will be, for the first time, part of my ministry.

(And no, I still don't sound very good. But I'm practicing!)

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