August 2019
Why Do People Take up the Recorder?
by ARS Board Member Carol Mishler
Behind every recorder player is a unique story of how that person became a recorder player. Incredibly rich and varied, the stories that I’ve collected over the past year show some of the diverse circumstances that can lead people to discover the recorder.
Shortcomings of Other Instruments
When people run into problems playing other instruments, it can lead to discovery of the recorder, as in the stories of David and Jane.
I played trumpet in high school, but when I got an apartment, I discovered that thin walls just don't work in a practice space. About that same time, a friend at work invited me over to his house to play recorders.  I had heard of them, but never played one and was pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to pick up and play, and then, later, how challenging they were to play well. That was 54 years ago and that tension between easy to get into and challenging to play well has kept me engaged ever since. -David Goings, Ann Arbor, MI
I taught flutophone in school and hated the sound. So another music teacher and I campaigned to teach the recorder instead. It was successful and the district (just south of Indianapolis) has taught the recorder ever since. The other teacher and I formed a group with my husband completing the trio. In time, we added more players, instruments, costumes and had a wonderful time for about twenty years as the “Renaissance Recorders” playing at venues including Renaissance fairs in Indiana. This was the beginning of my love affair with recorders for over 50 years. -Jane Spencer, Lakeland, FL
Suffered an Injury
An injury can cause a person to look for a new activity, as in Dan’s story.
I was recovering from a rotator cuff injury with my arm immobilized when I saw an ad in the newspaper announcing recorder lessons. I was looking for an activity I could do with my injury. I had been musical all my life, playing the guitar and banjo, although I had never learned to read music. I called the number in the ad and was told that even with my injured arm, I could learn to play the alto. I took some lessons and that was the beginning of my recorder playing. I now play contra bass through soprano and love playing Renaissance music in groups. –Dan Muss, Deep Creek, MD (pictured)
Recorder Came into the Household
Sometimes a recorder makes its way into the household and another person sees it, learns it, and many years later, still plays it.
My mom gave my dad a soprano recorder for his birthday. Knowing he was not musically talented, she secretly planned to play it herself! I purchased an alto recorder and my younger sister bought a tenor. Together we took lessons from a talented lady through a local university outreach program. Lessons were learned and to our delight, we could play trio music. Today I play SATB recorders in two ensembles. –Jan LaSota, Green Bay, WI
Music Teacher’s Invitation
Sometimes a music teacher leads a student to the recorder, as in the stories of Denise and Debbie.
I was playing the clarinet in my college band when the director asked me and several others if we would play recorders for a Christmas madrigal dinner. He handed us each a soprano recorder and fingering chart. That was my introduction to the recorder. I went on to major in and teach music for many years, acquiring all sizes of recorders along the way. Today I direct a recorder ensemble and enjoy playing not only my recorders but other early music instruments like the cornetto, cornamuse and krumhorn. –Denise Jacobs, Sturgeon Bay, WI (pictured with cornetto)

In 1970 I was a freshman in the college band. I went from 1st clarinet in high school to last of a large clarinet section in the college band. I was devastated! But I stuck with it and the band director, Dr. Gerald Moore, asked if I would like to play alto recorder in his new project, the Lipscomb recorder consort. We dressed in costume and traveled off campus to play for college-related events. I learned that recorder is just as challenging as clarinet. Dr. Moore is gone now but I think of him often, and the gift he gave me of being able to figure out a piece of music and play with a group. -Debbie Haslam, St. Petersburg, FL
Moved to a New Place
A move can trigger an encounter the recorder, like what happened to Ann.
When we moved from Berkeley to Albany, I joined the Jewish Community Center so our children could take swimming lessons. There I met the cantor's wife, who gave recorder lessons, playing Jewish folk songs. So I did that, meeting others who played. As a child, I never took any formal music instruction because my mother had a genuine fear that I would "break down" if I had music lessons! I’ve always enjoyed hearing the early music repertoire. Today I play C recorders and hope to learn the alto, the bass clef, and how to read up an octave. -Ann Roberts, Longboat Key, FL
Took a Recorder Course by Mistake
There are cases of people who came to recorder playing by pure accident, like Anita.
I was eighteen, married, and waiting home alone for my then husband to come home from basic training. So I signed up for a class in coloring photographs at our local adult education institution. My handwriting is so bad, that my check mark ended up registering me for "Recorder" instead of "Photocoloring." I went to the recorder class anyway, had a great teacher, loved it, and have been playing the recorder ever since. –Anita Simon, Sarasota, FL

What’s your “recorder story?” Is it anything like the ones above or completely different? Send it to me at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to add it to my collection.
Carol Mishler is a Board Member of ARS and divides her time between Suring, WI and Parrish, FL. She plays with Recorders by the Bay in Green Bay, WI and the Sarasota, FL chapter.
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