Second Clarinet

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Back in junior high I met a lifelong friend in the clarinet section—Roberta.

We both took private lessons. We both went to music camp. We both practiced diligently. And yes, we did goof around now and then and drive our band teacher just a little nuts.

Every year Roberta and I auditioned for chairs within the clarinet section, and every year, all the way through high school, guess who won first chair? Roberta.

You probably expect me now to talk about how discouraged I became and how it affected our friendship. Sorry to disappoint, but I really enjoyed being second chair clarinet. Roberta handled solos better than I did and had more confidence than I did.

Our senior year, Roberta and I both also played in the high school orchestra. Our director decided that year to have Roberta play the bassoon, and I became first chair clarinet. Eek! I had to work and work on a solo for the state competition, and I had to talk myself into being confident enough to play said solo.

Truth be told, I preferred second chair. I didn’t like the spotlight—still don’t.

When my publisher told me I had to develop a presence on social media and talk about myself and my book, I struggled. Still do. Social media just doesn’t feel comfortable to a second-chair clarinet player.

But I have learned that I can use social media to draw attention to other people.

Nothing makes me happier than promoting a young or undiscovered writer. And I love posting a funny video or poignant article that I know one of my readers (you) will appreciate. I love giving a thumbs-up to friends and family members doing brave, fun, normal things.

Recently, as so often happens, I sat down to spend time reading my favorite book, and came across one short sentence in Romans 12:10 that speaks directly to this idea. I particularly like the way the verse reads in The Message: “Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”

Don’t you think that verse could also be paraphrased this way: “Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second clarinet?” :)

That semi-colon tells me that the the two parts of this sentence carry equal weight. Good friends who love deeply also play second fiddle (clarinet). Hmm . . .

I wonder what would happen in our friendships, and on social media, if we adopted the “second clarinet” mentality. What do you think?  






6 thoughts on “Second Clarinet

  1. Roberta Choma

    If given the choice, I, too, like to hide in the back. It was a challenge to be “first clarinet” sometimes. But it was so much fun to be a part of something “bigger,” like a “music team.” God calls us to use our talents to support each other, just like the Body of Christ. My favorite part of our musical journey was playing clarinet duets with you. Loved the harmony. We can challenge ourselves to be our best, whether it be in the lead or a supporting role. Together we are more than the sum of the individual parts. And I am glad that He gave you the opportunity and challenge to be first chair our senior year. You have grown and blossomed from the experience. I am glad that God called you to take on the ministry of your Storm Sisters blog, which ministers to lots of us regular people.

    Thank you for your continued friendship!

    1. afton Post author

      Ah . . . my friend, this is beautifully written. What a good reminder that it is is less about the position and more about the mindset of being part of something bigger, a team. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have stuck with clarinet had it not been for your friendship and encouragement. Grateful for you then and now! :)

  2. Teresa Estes

    And you & Berta were quite a team! Enjoyed reading your post. I forgot that Berta played bassoon! Good ole Mr, McNeil saw the potential in both of you

  3. Linda W.

    Lovely post, Afton! And thank you for your encouragement of my writing. I agree that we can help promote others. I’m never comfortable with the spotlight either, even though there are some aspects of it that we can’t escape.

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