i never asked to play clarinet. literally. in sixth grade, after giving up piano and trombone, i decided i wanted to play the saxophone. my parents decided instead that i would play the clarinet. this decision was partly economic (cheaper rental fee) and partly aesthetic (my mom hated the saxophone). i went along with this and pretended the clarinet was a saxophone. i did this so i could stick with clarinet long enough to get a real saxophone (something my parents promised me if i showed some discipline). consequently, i became pretty good at an instrument that i never really wanted to play. and so my plan backfired. getting good at an instrument made it harder to convince my parents that i should be allowed to quit so i could instead play a different instrument. but after five years, i finally did get a saxophone. and even though i’ve studied the saxophone diligently, i’ve never developed the natural affinity for it that i have with the clarinet. and even though i’ve tried to quit the clarinet several times, excellent composers like darcy argue have stipulated that to be in their band, i need to play (bass) clarinet. so here i am, thirty years later, still playing the clarinet.
this is why i describe my relationship with the clarinet as “ambivalent.”