Quitting Reflection: Anna Lieb ’20

As an inexperienced middle schooler, playing clarinet alone for a high school teacher in an audition was on my top-ten list of the most terrifying things I could encounter. At the time, I thought that my three years of experience playing clarinet in band weren’t nearly enough to prepare me for my high school audition. Even though it was a weak excuse, my fear of the dreaded band audition was one of many reasons why I decided to quit. Honestly, avoiding an audition wasn’t the real reason that I stopped playing clarinet. The decision to quit was a difficult and complex issue for me, although dodging an uncomfortable audition was a welcome bonus.  
Quitting was hard, particularly because I had made achievements in the area: I had made it into the higher bands (albeit in fourth chair), and I truly felt that I had improved as a musician. With these achievements, I felt that quitting meant giving up all of my accomplishments, rendering all of the hours I had dedicated to practicing each day null and void. It took time and maturity to realize that even though I was successful and worked hard in band, I didn’t enjoy it. In the end, I was too focused on my success and achievements to be aware of my own personal preferences and what I truly enjoyed.
I also paid too much attention to what others thought, rather than focusing on my own feelings. Not only had I invested my own personal energy and time into playing clarinet, but my parents had also invested money in paying for both my instrument and private lessons. I felt obligated to continue with clarinet to make it seem as though their money was “worth it.”
Other external pressures also encouraged me to stay with clarinet for longer than I would have on my own. To me, playing an instrument well and participating in elite bands had always been associated with being a “good” student. With the concept of band came images of straight A’s and accelerated math courses. I have always strived, and still do strive, to be the best student I can be. But I have since realized that being the best student doesn’t necessarily mean following the most common, straightforward path to academic excellence. Being a good student means being passionate about what you learn, even if that means giving up an activity that you don’t love. For me this meant quitting clarinet. In this way, I believe that my choice to quit made me a better student.
The last nail in the coffin of my clarinet career was my other musical alternative: choir. Although I’m no choral prodigy, singing is something that I truly enjoy doing. Oftentimes, I find myself singing in my spare time, whereas I would never spontaneously pick up the clarinet to practice. Playing clarinet in a group with others could be fun, but practicing alone at home was a terrible chore which paled in comparison to the pleasure of singing.
Looking back, I don’t regret quitting band or clarinet because I enjoy choir much more. Although everyone has their own preferences, the important lesson that I learned through my decision-making process was to follow genuinely meaningful and interesting subjects. Quitting band wasn’t a loss; instead, it helped me gain a better understanding of who I am and who I want to be. Plus, rather than being regretful, I am grateful for my clarinet experiences. Band provided me with an invaluable background in music and music theory, which gave me an appreciation for music and will continue to help me in choir and in life.
As I move forward through life, I will surely continue to quit. But in the wake of quitting comes the promise of new beginnings and, most importantly, the formation of a stronger identity.

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