I’ve played an instrument since 4th grade. I first started with trumpet, because it’s “easy to pick up and fun to play.” But because of my hand, I had to play it left-handed- this both kind of hurt (because a trumpet isn’t made for my wrong hand’s smushed fingers against the valve) and seriously pissed off my bad conductor in middle school. 4th and 5th grade were fine- my parents explained everything to my teacher and she was really nice about it and never brought it up.

But when I entered middle school, the new band conductor was a trumpet enthusiast, and as a sixth grader I couldn’t understand why someone cared so much about the trumpet section’s “posture and poise,” as my conductor put it. On the first day, I could see a little question mark forming in his mind- “MY instrument? With a LEFT hand?”

And so it happened that on a random day in the middle of October he called me into his office after class and asked, “Why do you play your trumpet left-handed? It’s meant to be played right-handed, you know.” And so I responded with the typical “oh I’m left-handed and it’s easier” because I 1) didn’t want to tell some random 50-year-old smelly man about my hemiparesis (I didn’t even know it was called that at the time) nor did I 2) want my parents getting involved again. So my conductor very kindly suggested that I “learn to play the trumpet right or I should perhaps switch to some other form of artistic expression.” I half-agreed and ran out of the class. I don’t blame him, I was just kind of shy and scared and I really didn’t know how to deal with explaining my hand to people yet. But I still really liked music.

So that night I went home and Googled “left hand instrument.” Really the only search hit on Yahoo Answers was “French horn,” always with the caption “very hard to learn not for beginners,” which explains why it wasn’t really offered to a 6th grader. But the amazing thing about horn is that you play it almost entirely with your left hand on the valves. You put your right hand in the bell to hold it up, but it doesn’t do much else. I thought it was perfect. So naturally I found YouTube videos of a lady playing “Siegfried’s Horn Call” and I thought it sounded better and bigger and just cooler than any trumpet that I’d ever heard.

I ran into my parents’ room and blabbed, “Iwannaplayfrenchhorninsteadoftrumpetit’ssocool!” And the next day I walked into band class and told my conductor, “I’m gonna play horn not trumpet so I can use my left hand.” Of course, he enthusiastically agreed and gave me one of the dinged-up school horns because french horn players are a “rare commodity”- it’s hard to play so no one gets good at it.

And I was absolutely horrible at first, but I loved it. Even though I started out on horn sounding like some poor dying animal’s last breath, I practiced nearly every day because I wanted to sound like the lady in the “Siegfried’s Horn Call” YouTube video I’d heard.

By the end of the year, I had solos in my band’s final concert, and my conductor asked me to play with the 8th graders as a 7th grader. When I entered high school, I auditioned and made it in to my school’s most compatible band, Wind Ensemble. Sophomore year, I quit school band and joined a competitive outside orchestra. I also learned “Siegfried’s Horn Call”- it’s still my favorite. This year, I’m super excited to be the principal horn for my orchestra.

The takeaway from this is that even thought you might not be able to do some things, like play trumpet, or people might get you down, it’s most important to follow what you’re interested in- find a way to do that and to fully participate. Because if you don’t love it, it’s not worth doing. And you’ll take so much more away from the experience if it’s something you can always try your hardest at. Don’t give up, and play the french horn!


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