Francesca learns the clarinet

11 Dec

It wasn’t long before Francesca realised that her heightened hearing made her VERY popular in the music classroom. She became a popular girl and EVERYONE wanted to be in her group. This did her confidence the world of good. It also meant she decided she wanted to learn the clarinet.
Oh my gosh, I thought, a blind clarinettist? There can’t be many of those!?! The visiting woodwind teacher refused to take her.
‘How on earth can she learn the clarinet?’ he scoffed. I was not deterred. I explained how she could memorise the music, or learn it by ear from a recording. The finger holes can all be found using touch, what was the problem? ‘She’ll break the reed, she can’t even see the reed, let alone the music, no it’s not possible. I’m not doing it, and that’s final.’
At first I saw his side. I am a flautist, not a clarinettist. I could see the problems, so I spoke to her., reasoned that maybe a piano would be a better option, or violin, they were both well known for having teaching methods that involved memorising music. Nope. She wanted the clarinet, and nothing else would do.
Well, there was only one thing for it. I took a school clarinet home and got to work. I agreed to take her, but it took all my spare time to teach MYSELF the flipping instrument, so I could make sure I was one step ahead of her (trust me, I was often not much further than that one step ahead!)
Having not had a single clarinet lesson before ever, I learnt from tutor books, and taught her from the same tutor books. We went through lots and lots and lots of reeds. It often looked a right state when she came to the next lesson, of course, not being able to see the end of the reed, how would she know it had millions of little breaks in it?! Sometimes, I wondered how she got a sound from it at all; they were in such a state! She learned the music by rote, listening to me first (which is hilarious, considering I probably only learned the tune a few days before myself!) We raised the letters of the music on the page, using Braille, so she could check it if she forgot when she was at home practicing. I even tried to learn braille, so i could appreciate what it was like for her. It was extremely difficult, and she thought it was hillarious that she was better at it! As for the clarinet, she loved it. She played it for 3 years, reaching about grade 3 standard, before boys and sports got in the way, like any normal teenager.
I went to see someone for a one off lesson myself. I was curious how well I was doing, never having had a single lesson myself. I was told I would probably have passed grade 5. Not bad considering!
I still play the clarinet on and off, to this day. I wish I had started before I did, in fact. But I have Francesca to thank for being able to play it at all!
We did it, together, we proved that it IS possible, if you want it enough, you just need to apply a bit of lateral thinking to work out HOW.

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