When Darth Vader Played the Clarinet

If you don’t have a Flash player, you can listen to the podcast version of this post by clicking here.  For the good, old-fashioned text version, read on.

When I joined the fifth grade school band, I had a huge decision to make.  What instrument should I play?  The stakes were enormous.  Whatever I chose, I figured I’d be stuck with it for the rest of my band career, which I assumed would be a long and illustrious one and would eventually lead to playing backup for Aerosmith.

With that much on the line, I knew I’d better choose the right instrument.  I remember the day our music teacher brought in our selections and showed them to the class.  I watched him unpack trombones, tubas, piccolos and flutes, and then, the most incredible instrument I had ever seen in my life.

The heavens opened.  The angels sang.  In a shining moment of clarity, I laid eyes on the instrument that would change my life.

The clarinet.

Yes, I said it, the clarinet.  Now before you go getting smug and ridiculing my musical choice, you need to understand my logic.  I was looking for a cool instrument.  The clarinet?  Black and shiny – just like Darth Vader’s armor and K.I.T.T., the talking Knight Rider car.  What could be cooler than that?   I was eleven years old.  Playing the clarinet would practically make me half Jedi, half freelance crime-fighter with a mysterious past.

Man, was I excited.  I could hardly wait to start rocking it out with my instrument of awesomeness.  Steven Tyler was going to love it.

The only problem was when I showed up for my first practice, the other two guys in the band had decided to play the trumpet.  The trumpet!  Apparently they had either missed the clarinet or had never seen the Star Wars trilogy.

The only other clarinet I could find was played by a girl who appeared to be neither a Jedi nor a freelance crime-fighter.  I have no idea if she had a mysterious past, but at that point I didn’t care.  I had obviously chosen a girl’s instrument.  As far as I was concerned, it might as well have been pink.

It totally stunk.  Not only did I end up not playing for Aerosmith, but I dropped out of band by the time I got to junior high.  If the others guys had played the clarinet, would I have stuck with it?  Who knows?

I can tell you, though, that’s not the last time I let the fear of standing out from the crowd stop me from being myself.  It’s understandable in elementary school but downright sad as an adult.   It’s amazing the lengths otherwise mature people will go to in an effort to blend in with others.

We keep our mouths shut in meetings, wear clothes we don’t really like and settle for safe, predictable jobs instead of going for our dreams.  In a world filled with trumpets, we’re all afraid to play the clarinet.  By doing so, we rob the world of our most valuable asset – our God-given uniqueness.

We’ve all been given a particular combination of talents, passion and personality for a reason.  The Bible talks about how we’re fearfully and wonderfully made.  It says that we’re God’s masterpieces created for good works that God prepared for us to do long before we were born.  In other words, years before you hit the scene, God was crafting a clarinet with your name on it.

Now you just have to have the guts to play it.

So clarinet players of the world unite.  Jump in, speak up, be yourself.   You may never end up playing for Aerosmith, but I guarantee you’ll make beautiful music that the rest of us desperately need to hear.


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