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  • Walt Mussell

The Clarinet


A clarinet sits in my home office.


The room hasn’t always been my office. For many years, it was my older son’s bedroom. But my son went away to college in the fall of 2016 and I, after some trepidation about changing the place where he sleeps when he’s home, took it over. A bed remains there for when he’s visiting.


And now his clarinet is there, too.


My son began playing clarinet in sixth grade. The instrument seemed to fit him, melodic but not overly loud. Struggling with a learning disability, he spent most of his time studying, but he managed to fit the clarinet in with his other activities of Boy Scouts and rec baseball. He sometimes went to school early so he could do what his teacher called “pass-offs.” He performed in competitions in Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as a huge performance at the University of Georgia.


Then came high school. My son participated in both marching and concert band. Marching band was his favorite of the two. He gave up fall baseball to participate in the band. (He eventually gave up spring ball to make Eagle Scout.) In high school, his band participated in many competitions and won numerous honors. He marched in a post-Christmas parade in Italy, a New Year’s Day parade in London, and finished his high school with a Holiday Bowl appearance in California his senior year.


Then came college. He chose Mississippi State because they accepted him to study chemical engineering. He wanted to play in the band their as well. In spring of his senior year in high school, we drove to Starkville so he could try out. As ecstatic as he was about going to college, playing in the marching band was almost as important.


Now that my son is in the spring of is final semester at college, I see that it was.


My son gave up concert band in college, owing to the study requirements of his major, but marching band remained the outlet he loved. He performed at football games at Ole Miss, Kentucky, Arkansas, and LSU. He also did a non-conference game at the Superdome in New Orleans, three bowl games in Florida, and a final one in Nashville.


The game I’ll remember most was his last one in Starkville. It was the Egg Bowl vs. Ole Miss. He got his name announced with the seniors and his face on the jumbotron. For a brief moment, his smile lit up the stadium. He still had his trip to Nashville. When he brought his clarinet home after that weekend, it was done.


I hope he’ll pick it up again. Once he has a job and is settled in somewhere. I’m hoping he’ll join a community band and get back to playing. For now, he has wonderful memories.


As his dad, so do I.

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© 2018 by Walter Mussell