I Love to Play

Jameson Parker


       I love to play. Not just to play but to play. To make music. I love the feeling of the mother of pearl under my fingertips, the brush of brass against the side of my hand. I love to feel the air come out of the lowest keys when they're open. I love to unstick my pads, peel them out of position and pop them where they were supposed to be on a better horn. I love to mash my left hand into the high register and squeal at the top of my brass and reed lungs. I love a Low A, love to hit the bottom key with my thumb and feel my horn shake between my legs. I love the airflow.
       I love to breathe. I love to be sight reading and unable to see a breath mark for days and days and pull the air down into the bottom of my lungs, feel those lessons from The Breathing Gym, and blow controlled into the horn. I love to feel the reed bite at the tip of my tongue, cut myself trying to articulate the jazzy phrase. I love to bite off the end of notes, clip and cut and play staccato and fast. I love to cut the housetops like breaking pretzels. I love to smash a crescendo out of a window. I love to play loud.
        I love to stop. To play soft. I love to just hit a perfect rest, to nail the sixteen measures of silence at attention, horn down, parade rest and keep the time flowing down my legs. I love the feeling of the bands swelling behind me, hearing the trumpets move and trombones slide. Let all the instruments come together. Pick out rhythms in the silence and let the spectacle of sound overwhelm. I love to stop counting here and just feel the theme move from section to section with point and counterpoint and countermelody and dissonance and long held bell tones ringing high above the band, above the stage, above the crowd, above the stands, above the judges boxes up at the top of the high school stadium standing in arcs pretending to be a box of melting shattering glass. I love to pop the horn out of my mouth with the last note, let it ring back over the grass and crowds and football stadiums. Let the dew that I've slid over all night vibrate while the crowd goes back to munching popcorn and talking about the game.
       I love the Saxophone. I love the Tuba. I love the feel of strings under my fingers and vibrations on my tongue. I love the taste of a new reed, the cut of new strings, the buzz of a mouthpiece in a berp. I love the feel when the valves and buttons and frets slide together and forget that there are note names. I love forgetting the names of notes, the scale I'm playing, and instead just feel the music move up and down the fretboard or the four valves or the thirty-six keys.
        I love the road under marching feet. I love keeping time. I love high stepping. I love crab stepping. I love shoulders to the stands. I love horn pops. I love mellophones. I love melodies I don't play. I love ten steps backward with a sousaphone around my waist and the friend next to me rolling over himself because of a pothole in the practice field and somehow a measure later he's back in step stretching so far he's literally jumping backward toes raised, horn in mouth, still playing as he glides like a dancer back to place.
       I love the continuance, the permanence, the black ribbons we wore for the dead band parent and standing in arcs that next Friday while we played Amazing Grace with tears in our eyes and blood in our horns. I love that we played while our throats screamed no and we just felt the sobs. I love that none of us missed a note that night. I love that it was perfect that it was Amazing Grace, that it rang out over the crowd and there was silence for a moment, just a moment, at the big football game in the South because the band was playing. I love being a part of that band playing. I love that I don't play often anymore. I love that I pick up the guitar at my friends' homes and tell them I'm no good and play a G or a C and then strike into Against Me! and feel punk ballads of sadness ring in my fingers. I love to play a blues scale over the background chitchat and talk with my friends while my fingers find familiar stomping ground. I love the hot days of summer, making up silly songs of sex and fun and friends and nonsense all sung out of tune, sung too loud and too over-the-top. I love making fun, making it fun. Love plugging into an amp once a month and practicing Wolfmother in the quiet of my apartment.

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Jameson Parker is a graduating senior at Lincoln Memorial University. He was born in Canada and has lived in the United States for 22 years. He has work forthcoming in The Emancipator. This essay is his first major publication.