All was not harmonious in the orchestra rehearsal. The velvet voice of the 2nd clarinet was complaining again.
“Look at this part! I play for 10 measures and then I have 50 measures rest! And look! Look! Over the page, more sections where I have absolutely nothing to play. Just sitting around doing nothing.”
The composer raised his baton and began conducting the piece.
“…and another thing”
said the 2nd clarinet after he had played his opening notes.
“Look at the violins! Scraping away sounding like feral cats in the moonlight – when do they have to rest? Do they have pages of nothing to do but counting so they don’t get lost? Oh no! Not the violins they just play their little strings out all….”
The 2nd clarinet stopped, played a few notes and then continued without missing a beat.
“…all the time. Everyone gets to play more than me, my music is just page after page after page of waiting! Well I’m tired waiting”
He quickly turned over three pages of music to his next entrance and began to play the notes loudly.
The music ground to a lurching halt.
“O.k,” said the Composer. “I think someone in the wind section may have accidentally turned over too many pages. Let’s pick up the piece at letter C”
“Very smart” hissed a flute between notes.
“Now we all have to play this difficult bit again because somebody wanted a solo. You just sit there and count and play nothing!”
“ But it’s not fair, I don’t want to wait any longer.”
An unexpected voice spoke up. “What’s the problem little reedy one” said the bassoon. “Why the squeaky complaining?”
“I’m tired of waiting that’s all. When I joined the orchestra I dreamed of long high notes, intricate solos and heart-rending melodies. The reality is I just sit here counting out measures of silence waiting to play my three notes, and one of them usually comes out wrong because I’m no longer warmed up. How do you manage it Bassoon, you play even fewer notes than I do?”
“Do you really want to know? You might not like my answer.” Said the bassoon in his dark nasally voice.
“Yes I do. At least it will be an answer.”
“Well hear this then clarinet. You are not the most important instrument in this orchestra. It’s not about your playing, or the timpani or the violins. It’s not even about the trumpets – although they seem to act like it is. It’s not about any of us at all.
It’s about the music.
You see your part and complain about the waiting. But the music is going on all around you. O.k. the Composer has decided that this section of the music doesn’t need your special voice. But think about the incredible contrast when you do play again. Your voice at the right time adds to the music in a way that no one else can. Your measures of silence; your choosing to not play, adds as much to the music as when you do play.
You are a part of something so much bigger than yourself little clarinet. And if you decide to sing your part without listening to the others, then the music suffers. The composer has a part only you can play. Your voice is unique and so is the silence that you create when you wait.
Listen to the music all around you. Yes you have to wait for the right time for you to play, but as you wait and count, listen to the music.”
So 2nd clarinet waited and counted and listened to the symphony around him. And at just the right time he added his voice into the beauty.