The TrumpeterEli 13.3, as you may remember, plays the trumpet.
He enjoys playing, but he's not driven to play. He's not the first chair in his school band, which isn't even very good. Despite this, though, his acuity is high, and he definitely has moments. He's developed a quality when he plays.
Last year, he missed the Region Band competition because of hockey, but this year, there was no conflict. And even with his thumb still in a splint, he was able to play with only slight impairment.
In the weeks leading up to the competition, he would occasionally practice at home. When he was first learning how to play, he was very mechanical, playing the notes correctly, but without feeling.
For the Region competition, there was a piece he had to learn, and one night when he was practicing, in a slow section, I felt this burst of emotion as I listened. The trumpet can be a very emotional instrument when played well, and somehow, he had tapped into that emotion.
So yes, his playing was uneven and not polished at times, but like I said, he's developed this quality, this ability to wring emotion out of the music. He feels something as he plays.
He went on the bus Saturday to the competition. He was competing against quite a few kids, and he needed to be in the top 15 to make it into a special band that would play in December.
These contests are endless. He waited around for six hours to play, actually played for about three minutes, then called Gloria to pick him up (hockey game later, and even though he couldn't play yet with his thumb, he wanted to be on the bench).
When they got home, we headed for the rink.
"How'd you play?" I asked.
"Pretty well," he said. "I started off a little rough with the slower piece, but played the fast piece better than I ever have."
"Well, what do you think your chances are?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said, shaking his head. "There were 81 trumpets, and the proctor said it was the best year for trumpets that she could ever remember." He paused. "If I do make it, I'll probably be in the thirteenth to fifteenth chair. I heard some really good kids in our group."
"It's okay," I said. "I'm glad you got to go compete, and playing as well as you can is the most important thing." Yeah, I know. I was trying to set up a soft landing when he didn't make it. I really wanted something good to happen for him, because of that stupid thumb injury in hockey, but he was facing long odds. "So when do you find out the results?"
"It should be soon," he said. "Mary and Ellie will text me." Those are the other two kids who play trumpet, and Eli hung out with them all day. Good friends and very nice kids.
When we got to the rink, Gloria let me off at a Whataburger nearby so that I could quickly grab some food before the game. I ate, then walked back to the rink, and on the way, I saw there was a text on my phone:
Did Eli text you? He got first chair!
I started laughing. He's ridiculous.
I saw Eli at the rink and gave him a hug. "First chair? Seriously?" I said.
He started laughing. "I have no idea," he said. "My phone blew up with texts. It was crazy."
I keep saying I'm going to stop being surprised, but I hope I never get there.