The Clarinet Lesson

What did his teacher mean by woodshedding, he wondered? He’d been playing the clarinet for six weeks and thought, for such a short time, he was doing pretty well, but his teacher had said that he needed to spend some more time woodshedding. He lived in Manhattan, there aren’t any woodsheds. And even if there were he wasn’t sure what wood or a shed had to do with playing the clarinet. Okay, he thought, maybe it has to do with the fact that the clarinet was made of wood. No, he again thought, that can’t be it because then why would his teacher say that he needed to spend more time woodshedding?

For a six year old this was too complex a problem to tax his brain with at the time so he decided to simply go back to practicing the C Major scale and ask his teacher what it meant at his next lesson.

The week seemed to never end as each day he’d been obsessed with the question about what woodshedding meant.

Finally the day arrived. He’d be able to ask his teacher the one question that had been burning in his brain the whole week. So much so that it had consumed most of his time and he’d done very little practicing and kept thinking and thinking about woodshedding.

As soon as his teacher arrived, he’d decided, he was going to ask the question. But as the buzzer sounded and the doorman called to announce that his teacher was there he realized that he’d feel pretty stupid asking his all-consuming question, but told the doorman to send him up anyway.

As they sat down and the lesson began his sense of feeling stupid overtook him and he delayed asking and simply played the week’s assignments as well as he could, given the scant amount of time he’d spent practicing.

When he finished his teacher smiled and said that he’d obviously been woodshedding a lot this week since his playing had definitely improved.

There was that word again.

It was now or never, he realized, and he blurted out the question.

Practicing, his teacher answered. In the old days, when people had woodsheds, students would go to the woodshed because it was far enough away from the house that no one would hear them practice.

That was it! That was what he’d spent all of that anguish over? That was what had consumed him to the point that he hadn’t practiced much?

But then, it didn’t seem to matter whether he had or not because he’d played his assignment better without practicing.

As his teacher left he put away his clarinet and turned on the television.

I think I’ll woodshed the television instead of the clarinet this week.

The End


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