Did you know I played the flute? Well, I don’t. Yet for one magical year, I was a flutist for our high school marching band, and I never played an incorrect note. How can this be you ask? Read on.
My high school’s band was (and is) pretty badass—always at least state finalists and occasionally state champions. Being in the band was cool, and I had many friends who were members, including some of my best friends. It was an amazingly talented group of kids, but I wasn’t one of them.
With the band season of my senior year a couple weeks from starting, my friends were throwing a band party and invited me to come as “an honorary member.” It was at that very moment that it dawned on me: I didn’t want to be an honorary member—I wanted to be the real thing.
The next day I walked into the somewhat unapproachable band director’s office and boldly told him that I wanted to join the band. I really don’t know what I was expecting, since I didn’t play an instrument. To this day, I wonder what ran through his head. Two weeks away from his first competition of the year, and a senior waltzes in and announces she wants in.
He sized me up a bit and replied, “We have two openings. The first one is bass drum.” I love drums! I can bang a drum! Let me be a drummer! But once he told me how much they weighed and the physical toll it took, I knew my already bad back had knocked that option out of the running. No bass drum.
“Our second opening is in the flute line,” he offered. I was crestfallen. “Oh. Sorry. I don’t play the flute.” I started my turn to leave when he said, “Well…you wouldn’t play it…you would merely fill the interval…” he emphasized, as though he was speaking to an idiot. I guess I qualified.
He went on to explain that the program had been written and rehearsed when suddenly a flute player had to move away…leaving a hole in the presentation. I would simply learn the steps and pretend to play, filling the hole she left.
Shoot, I could fill a hole, I told him. And over the next two weeks, I learned the steps and had a ridiculous amount of fun doing so. By the time we had our first competition, I was ready to march.
I didn’t miss a step. Here I was…amidst this wonderfully talented group of musicians on a huge field, being cheered on…it was an awesome experience. I could do this!
And I did. For the whole season, I filled that interval—I stepped where I was supposed to, danced, boogied, and jammed when I should, and never played a wrong note—because I played none at all. Judges would walk right past me and never know because the great music surrounding me filled any void my little ol’ flute might have left.
I traveled to all of the competitions—including playing on Soldier Field. We performed in the rain, the cold, the wind—nothing stopped us. I always admired the real musicians whose frozen fingers actually had to move with precision, while mine only needed to look the part. They were a great bunch of kids—so talented.
Once when we performed for a pep rally in our own gym, I had non-band friends come up to me afterward and say, “Hey—I never knew you played the flute! You were great!” to which I replied, “Well, I’m not playing—I’m just faking it to fill the interval…” and they would pat me on the back and tell me what a great kidder I was. They wouldn’t believe such nonsense as faking the flute. Who does that?
I did. And it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. All because in one moment’s realization I decided I wanted to be a part of something. Something I had no business being a part of, yet because I stepped out of my comfort zone, I found that there was indeed a place for me.
A wacky, crazy place—but a place for me—a one-of-a-kind place for me.
Sometimes you just have to take the chance in life that results in your version of “faking the flute.” If I would have bothered to think through my impulse to truly be in the band—if I would have considered things like the fact that I didn’t play an instrument…that the season was about to start…that I had never expressed an interest to the band director before—I would have missed out.
I wonder now, with all of life’s responsibilities weighing in on every choice I make, how many times does a chance to “fake the flute” pass me by? Sometimes logic is the enemy of adventure. I need to keep a lookout for the next hole that just might need my filling.
And you, too, friends: please be open to the crazy opportunities that come your way. You just may go on a journey you never knew existed—and make memories for which one day you will be very grateful.