Reflection On Music

I’ve never had a private teacher in clarinet until I arrived at Cornell, but I have been playing clarinet since the fourth grade. That left me with a lot of time to develop bad habits. Because I was primarily self taught, I always struggled with clarinet technique: flattening my chin, relaxing my throat, light fingers etc. However, what I have failed to focus on is my ability to feel and experience music. It had been very long since I had “moved” with the music and let it take over my expression. It had been a long time since I had actually enjoyed music. Being at numerous all-state and all-county bands back at home never helped my plight because just like me, those musicians were focused on perfection rather than enjoying music.
Arriving at Haiti, I believed that it would be up to me to teach the Haitians how to play clarinet and improve their technique. I was completely terrified: what if I was unable to help them? What if I only made their technique worse? These concerns went out the window when we first played together as an ensemble. I was mesmerized by not their technique, but by their ability to express themselves and enjoy the music that they were playing. I quickly realized the point of this tour: because we were all musicians, we could connect through our love and appreciation for music. I was able to learn how to love music again. Music undoubtedly let me connect with the Haitians, not only by talking about what type of music we like, but also enjoying and feeling the same emotions towards the music we played. I cried when they played the march of the soldier and rosymedre and I was overjoyed when we played the other Haitian pieces that got the crowd up on their feet. Maybe for the first time in a long while, I enjoyed the music, and I am forever grateful to the Haitians for helping me with that.

-Matthew Fu, Clarinet