I was fourteen years-old in 2009 when my family moved to Columbia, South Carolina. I was about to begin my eighth grade year. Coming from a small town in Georgia, home schoolers like my sister and I were about as rare as unicorns, and home school activities were nonexistent. Once in Columbia, my family discovered a home school band less than 30 minutes from our new house, and my older sister and I were the first in line for auditions. It was my third year playing clarinet, and anticipation coursed through my veins. It would take me four years to realize that when I walked into that audition room nervous and sweating, I walked into an ensemble that would last a lifetime.
We call ourselves The Clarinets. I am not sure exactly when we coined our name; we certainly were not inseparable from the start. As the years of sitting together as a section wore on, Rachel, Lindsay, and I became more to each other than band members. It began with inviting each other to our birthday parties. Then, we started meeting for dinner before performances. Along with our amazing instructor Ms. Cindy, we created a clarinet ensemble and performed before band concerts and in nursing homes. We had sleepovers and made “The Clarinets of 2012” (and 2013, and 2014) t-shirts. Before too long, we had infiltrated every aspect of each other’s lives. Although other clarinetists joined the band, The Clarinets were always just the three of us.
In January of 2013, in the middle of my junior year of high school, my family moved again, this time to Watertown, New York. Just before I moved, The Clarinets had a New Year’s Eve party. Yesterday, I bought my plane ticket for the fifth annual New Year’s Eve Clarinet Reunion. “Friends” is too common a word to describe The Clarinets. We are an ensemble in all definitions of the word. We were a group of musicians who performed together, and we have become a group viewed as one and not individuals. For the first three years of our friendship, my father viewed us so much so as an ensemble that he could not identify which of The Clarinets was Lindsay and which was Rachel. And although both my parents now know who is who individually, my parents often ask me, “How are The Clarinets these days?”. This ensemble of three has supported each other in good times in bad. In grief and in joy. In laughter and in tears.
Many strong, indivisible things come in threes: The Three Musketeers, three peas in a pod, a three-legged stool, and a three-strand cord are just a few. Even the Bible highlights three as a special number through the Holy Trinity and verses like Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” There have been countless times when personal opinions, life circumstances, and personality differences threatened to divide the three of us. Even now, we rarely get together without at least one argument. We often say that if we had met at any other stage of life, we probably would not have remained friends; we met while in that perfect balancing act of developing opinions distinct from our parents and respectfully listening to what others think. From serious issues concerning politics and religion to topics as simple as what we eat and how to say pecan, we often disagree more than we agree. Under any other circumstances, we never would have stayed friends. The three of us are as different as apples and oranges. We had one thing in common, though: the clarinet.