Seventeen eager little faces peered up at me from the floor. They struggled to stay seated and to keep their hands from grabbing at each other, their toys, or the shiny distraction I held in front of them. The first and second graders at the orphanage had been promised a reward if they could sit through the entire lesson without interrupting. The desire for a reward waged war against their lack of discipline and longing to wiggle- evident enough to me that I almost laughed out loud several times as I taught from the front. But to laugh would be the end of any semblance of order and the impending chaos that was promised (aka their reward) would be coming soon enough.
"Let's count how many pieces make up a trumpet!" I flashed the black case in front of their little faces and began to assemble the instrument. The children counted out loud and then looked at me with anticipation.
"Do you think this instrument will be high or low?" I asked again and then kids called out their guesses. I played a scale, demonstrating the trumpet's range and now the kids screamed out in glee, "High! High!"
After a few more demonstrations and questions we told the children it was time for their reward. Because of their good behavior, they would be allowed to try to play the trumpet. They gasped in awe at the possibility of being able to not only touch the shiny trumpet but to play it too.
Chaos erupted. Before I could take a step back, little hands were reaching for the trumpet, pushing to be next in line, pleading to try first. We quickly attempted some order, creating a line for them to wait in, and I made sure to not take my hands off the trumpet.
One by one, little faces moved from my mouth giving them directions to the trumpet in my hands as they waited to try. Little hands pressed down on the valves as rapidly as possible, and little lungs gasped huge breathes of air, trying to make the loudest sound on the trumpet. The kids took turns buzzing on the mouthpiece and then playing through the trumpet. Most could manage a blast of sound- but that was enough- they were quickly bouncing up and down at their success at adding to the cacophony of noise in the room. A few struggled to make any sound come out of the trumpet, and I helped them as best as I could to remember to 'buzz' and not 'hum.' And then there were a few who could really play the trumpet. They instinctually pressed their lips together, took a deep breath, and played a decent sounding note. These kids would look down at the trumpet in wonder and then look up at me in awe.
After much high fiving and leaping around the room in triumph at the experience of playing an actual trumpet, our class came to an end. The kids filed out, I packed up the instruments, and was left with a slight headache, a very wet, spit-covered sweater, and a feeling of joy at bringing music- or cacophonous noise if you prefer- to these forgotten children.