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My hero is my old private lesson teacher. He taught me everything about percussion. He introduced me to a whole new world that I couldn’t have found without him.
I started taking private lessons when I was a fifth grader. I was very shy then, and barely ever spoke to new people. Nothing about life felt natural then, and I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. People would point out my flaws, my differences. I never liked my school, and most of the people there annoyed me. I didn’t have a place in my life. That all changed my first lesson.
Since the first time that I picked up a drum stick, it just felt natural, like an extension of my hand that had finally been reattached. I liked snare drum well enough, but I fell head over heels in love with percussion when my teacher introduced me to the marimba. That beautiful instrument with Honduran rosewood keys that produced the most perfect sound in the world.
My love affair started with two mallets. They felt amazing to hold, and truly breathtaking to play. The way the marimba resonated, producing this amazing sound that breaks my heart every time I hear it. I loved playing two mallets, it let me express myself in ways that the snare drum couldn’t. The feeling of happiness that came over me when I played, it was like a drug. I thought my teacher was the greatest person in the world for introducing me to the marimba. I finally had a friend that wouldn’t stab me in the back. I also finally had a person who understood how much I loved music.
Then my teacher handed me another set of mallets, which confused me because you can’t use four mallets at a time can you? The answer was yes, and when I found that out filled me to the brim with joy. He showed me the grip, rotations, stroke types, everything. If I thought he was amazing before, now he was my hero. He helped me unlock this new world that welcomed me with open arms. I fit in there, unlike at school. The mallets were my connection to this world, and I would not trade them for anything.
For months I worked on my four mallet grip, rotations, and stroke types. I barely touched a marimba throughout this time. This frustrated me to no end, I wanted to play. But my teacher was strict and made me work on the technique for what seemed like ever. Finally one day he let me play the marimba with four mallets. It was a whole new sensation, I thought two mallets were good, but four mallets were like soaring to the sky. The feeling of stretching my wrist in rotations that made the marimba sing was pure bliss. Oh those rotations felt amazing to play. It was my morphine, to take away the pain of school. The marimba became my safe place, a place where I could pour my heart out. A place where I could curl up and sob when I just couldn’t take it anymore. A place where I could let myself go, and the marimba would never judge me, it would never stab me in the back. A place where I finally could take my mask off, let down my guard, and be me.
Over time my technique got better, and my teacher started to let me play songs. At first they were little made up songs, but finally in seventh grade he let me play my first four mallet solo, From the Cradle. I worked that solo to no end, exploring its staff, drinking in its notes. This solo parted the way for new solos that I took and learned, one by one. This world was my true home, one that I was taking by storm. I dashed in between the staffs, greeting notes with eagerness, knowing they would return my enthusiasm. I danced with the melodies, sung with the harmonies, and swayed with the dynamics.
But then my teacher moved, and I was devastated. Who would help me unlock music? Who would introduce me to instruments? For months I drifted, pulling away from the marimba because it reminded me that I didn’t have anyone anymore. I didn’t have that person who understood that I had to play. There was nobody who I felt truly understood my ever growing love for percussion. I became dark, pulling back into my shy self that my teacher had worked so hard to get me away from. I wasn’t happy; I didn’t want to go to school because I didn’t have my morphine anymore. I didn’t have my own world to escape to when I just couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t have my safe place, my best friend.
I eventually found another teacher, who is great, but I still miss my first teacher. He pulled me out of my shell, unlocking this mysterious world of music to me. He gave me a place to be myself, somewhere where people didn’t tease me. He helped me to find pure bliss, my true love and passion. He unlocked my heart, tore through my shell, helped me to become who I am today.
After a while I realized that I was being stupid, that he would want me to play. He didn’t teach me the secrets of percussion so that I could waste them. He taught me those secrets because he saw something that nobody else saw in me, talent. So I played more than ever, working my hands until they cramped and refused play anymore. I reconnected with the marimba, rekindled our love affair. That huge, glossy keyed instrument became my best friend all over again. Those keys that I let all my emotions into, those resonators that echoed my music throughout the room, they spoke to me and comforted me once again. My love for the marimba grew, along with my love for music in a whole. I had my safe place again, I had my love back. I realized that the marimba is now part of me that I can’t ever let go of again. If I want to be truly happy I have to play.
Whenever I need it, I know that my marimba will be there for me, even when my human friends aren’t. I know that I can always whisper my secrets to my marimba, and that he will keep them safe. My hero may have left, but my best friend will never leave me. I will never let go of him again. I can always play until my hands bleed, letting all my tears, all my emotions, into those glossy keys. They are the keys to my heart. That amazing instrument pulled me out of my shell, letting me be truly happy. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like now if I had never met the marimba. He speaks to me, showing my how to make the keys sing in harmony. Whispering to me that everything is going to be okay. Most girls have a boy who is their first love, but I have my marimba. He is my first love, my true love. I don’t need anything other than a marimba and four mallets to be happy.
My teacher unlocked this world that I fit into, and he is my hero because of that. I hope that he knows how much he helped me, how much he changed me. I hope he knows how grateful I am for everything, and how much all that technique work has helped. I hope he realizes that he pulled me out of my shell little by little every time he yelled for me to play louder, to be proud of my playing. I hope he knows that he changed my life by giving me a home. Thank-you for all that you did for me, I will never forget it. I will always love percussion and I will never stop playing.