by Joy Cox
My ten-year-old self would be so disappointed by my thirty-year-old self. I was going to be the greatest horn player of my time. I wept on my bedroom floor when I read the fingering chart incorrectly and tried to play A-flat with fingers one and two. It didn’t sound right. There was something wrong with me! I would never be the greatest because I can’t play A-flat! Obviously I got that figured out. Barry Tuckwell was my hero; I even named my goldfish “Barry.” When at last it was time for college, I figured I had better go to music conservatory because who really has time for math and English? Must practice. I did everything I could to pursue a career in performing and things went well. I won a small, but professional, audition during college and had enough free-lance work to support myself.
Fast forward about ten years. I have around 150 students ranging from preschool to high school age. My classes are general music, band, choir, and handbells. I’ll admit, it’s kind of crazy but I had been pulled into teaching little by little. It started with giving piano lessons and doing after school tutoring on the side and that was it, I was sold! When presented with the opportunity to teach a subject I was passionate about, I could hardly turn it down. I found myself sharing the most basic elements of music in a more interactive way than I had before. For the most part, it seemed that my students were enjoying music and growing from the relationships we were building. We were all being challenged.
At first I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to balance full-time teaching and performing. Of course it was! Then I was so blessed to meet the love of my life and we have two beautiful baby boys who are the joy of my life. Mind if I pause for just a minute? “Shout out” to you parents. I see you! You’re trying to balance EVERYTHING: teaching, playing, family. Once you get done dumping poop out of a training potty, dealing with meltdowns over which underwear to wear, and trying to keep tiny people content, you don’t have much energy for Kopprasch. Again, I see you. Sometimes you have play that outdoor July 4th concert at eight months pregnant (Can’t breathe!) or make the gig work two weeks after childbirth (What was I thinking?). You’re trying to balance it all. My younger self cringes when I don’t sound like I used to. It’s lovely and therapeutic when I do have the opportunity to perform, but for me, there is no balancing the two. It would be impossible and that’s ok. My teaching job is a musical outlet that dominates a lot of my time and passion. I go to work early when I can to practice. Head to the basement after the kids are in bed and play some Muller etudes. I try to be smart when I do have time with the horn to determine which exercises and etudes help me gain the most ground quickly. When you find yourself WANTING to go to work each day, there are no regrets about life choices. A little part of me is even sad when each school year ends. I know, it’s kind of dorky.
I guess the ten-year-old me will have to see it this way; we’re all doing the same thing by building relationships, exchanging art, enhancing lives, enjoying music. Performers and teachers build relationships with audiences/students and other musicians, we grow and make each other better as we play music together, and we challenge and delight others with music. My horn teachers were fantastic and I’m so grateful for the time and care they took to teach me just as much about life as horn playing. I hope to do the same for my students.