When I was in orchestra in junior high and high school, each year we’d participate in music competitions with students from other schools. As in sports, you first competed on a more local level, and then moved on to the state competition. During this time, the arch nemesis of our ensembles was a certain affluent suburb of Indy. I’m sure the feeling wasn’t mutual because to these kids, we were just another tiny bump in their road to ultimate victory. But to us, they were the enemy. While we played on used & rented instruments, they played on sparkling new ones. Their parents hired instructors for private lessons. We received all of our instruction during school. They had matching fancy-butt outfits. We had our closet. We wanted to place well, but more importantly we wanted to beat THEM.
This was all a distant memory until last June when Mini Me competed in a piano competition at the State Fairgrounds. All but a handful of contestants were from the Indy area. About 80% of those were from the aforementioned affluent suburb. When I saw the list of participants, I was instantly transported back to those days of one-sided rivalry. Must. Beat. Them. She didn’t.
Fast forward to the present. Mini Me is competing in said arch nemesis affluent suburb, at their own competition. Saturday is piano division. Sunday is non-piano instrumental, in which she’s playing harp. The piano competition is pretty fierce. Many of the kids are the same ones who were at the competition last June. They have concert grands and those hoity lurcher dogs and have been playing piano since they were 2 months old. Mini Me is last on the list to play. It’s not a good day. For whatever reason, she just doesn’t play her best. She’s mad at herself and scornful of her participation trophy. Once again, we are foiled in our, for it’s now multi-generational, quest to beat THEM.
Sunday we once again trek to the hated affluent suburb. We have no idea what she’ll be competing against, as it’s open to any instrument other than piano. The first four contestants are in the 1st-4th grade bracket. They all play violin. I look at the program, which lists pieces, but not instruments and wonder how many other violins might be on the program. Mini Me is competing in the 5th-8th grade bracket. Ahead of her two boys play the marimba, and one plays electric guitar. I think, “Huh. Two marimba players. That’s kind of unusual.” Little did I know.
Mini Me does an excellent job, but there are several contestants to go, and I’m cautiously optimistic. I look at the program as the Hubster is moving the harp off stage. Next piece is Waltz in F. I think, “Oh, maybe we’re going back to violin.” They move the marimba back onstage. And there it stayed through the remainder of the 5th through 8th grade division. On to the 9th through 12th grade bracket. I look at the program and realize that two of the pieces have already been played in the earlier division—on the marimba. And so it was, the entire rest of the program consisted of marimba. I heard more marimba yesterday than I’d heard in my entire life. It was truly bizarre. Apparently, these days the folks in this affluent suburb, henceforth to be known as Marimba City, are really serious about their piano, and their percussion, but not much else. Who knew?
And so there we were, waiting for the judges to finish scoring and make their decision. Would the fact that Mini Me did not play the marimba help or hinder her? Would we be sent home with a measly participation trophy, yet again? Fourth place goes to…. Marimba Boy #1. Third place goes to…. Marimba Boy #2. Second place goes to…. Electric Guitar Boy. And first place goes to…. Mini Me! Yeeeeaaah! Put THAT in your juice box, you privileged percussionists! Beaten, on your own turf, by a girl from little podunk nowhere.
Mini Me, of course, was thrilled. She told me later than when they announced that she’d won, she heard some of the kids let out an annoyed sigh. As if they were thinking, “I can’t believe she won! She, like, doesn’t even play marimba. Sheesh!”
The first person Mini Me called was her Aunt Basketball Fingers, who had also suffered at the hands of Marimba City during her high school band career. A warm, fuzzy feeling surrounded us as we drove off into the sunset, each savoring a sweet slice of revenge pie.