Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Unlike Tiny Tim, I never tiptoed through the tulips May 23, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A row of vibrant ukuleles are suspended in the front window of Eastman Music in historic downtown Faribault, Minnesota.

A row of vibrant ukuleles are suspended in the front window of Eastman Music in historic downtown Faribault, Minnesota.

I REMEMBER PLAYING a ukulele in junior high school. I had no clue what I was doing; I could not read a musical note. Somehow, though, I managed to strum my way through a concert and pass a music class. Interesting how I remember that all these decades later. And interesting how the teacher failed to notice that I was not learning to read notes under his instruction.

Unlike nearly every other student, I never had the opportunity to play piano or a band instrument. I was the second oldest of six children in a poor farm family. There was no extra money for music anything. Plus, my elementary school didn’t offer a band program and the junior high school, at 20 miles distant, was too far away for me to be involved in band.

I’ve always regretted not being able to read music or play an instrument. I cherished the toy accordion I received one year for Christmas. It is the closest I’ve ever come to owning a musical instrument. When my sister, three years my junior, took flute lessons, I taught myself to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Yes, my parents somehow scrimped money for musical instruments for my younger siblings.

How about you? Can you read music? Do you play a musical instrument? If not, why not?

NOTE: I took this photo a year ago and just now pulled it from my files.

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling






31 Responses to “Unlike Tiny Tim, I never tiptoed through the tulips”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    You could take up piano now if you wanted to, I bet. I am sure there is someone who would teach you. I was always in some sort of musical program over the years but I ended up being more into vocal music instead of instrumental. I did band for a few years (percussion) and had a very brief stint with piano. Since Chris has a really nice Clavinova I need to make it a priority to learn to play, right?

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    LUV that photo!!!!! You know how music plays with me!!!! (sorry, couldn’t resist) I know I didn’t appreciate the piano lessons in my early years (especially the ones during the summers on Saturday mornings when all the other kids got to watch the morning cartoons!!!!). I do feel I missed out on not playing an instrument with a group and learning that technique of reading musical scores.

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    You may have never become a musician, but you are a wonderful writer and photographer. I, too, was fascinated with music and wished i would have learned. Turns out I was a better artist than a musician. I didn’t catch on to reading music either and I wasn’t one of those gifted types that could play by ear.

  4. I can read music, but not very well. I played the piano and keyboard and even tried the organ (so not an easy instrument to play). I tried many creative outlets growing up and gravitated to reading and writing and then around 13 photography. You are like me in that our musical instrument is our writing and photography 🙂 Happy Week – Enjoy!

  5. I never knew ukuleles were such a big deal until I came across this ukulele maker in Turtle River (near Bemidji), MN:
    And then once on vacation I saw an ad for a concert featuring a ukulele player and the tickets were $44.00!

  6. Wãshē Kōdä Says:

    I can read it & write it very well, I think, 🎵 however the brain signals are not sent to my fingers or lips so I play it terribly !
    Wow $44 for a nice Uke is a good deal ! 😉

  7. Phil Holum Says:

    I have forgotten nearly everything I knew about reading the music. I sing in church choir, but I really would like to take some lessons and relearn the basics. But always excuses…..

  8. I went to a school where we, like many students now, learned to read the treble clef and play the recorder in fourth grade. Everyone in the class got a recorder and a music book to go with it. It was the prelude to when, in fifth grade, kids could choose an instrument and join band or orchestra. I didn’t join either – my parents didn’t encourage it, told me practicing every day might become a drag, I could join choir if I wanted. I’m not sure why they played it that way; much later, when I was 14, they got me a guitar and paid for a few lessons. Anyway, my kids both learned to read music and we went through clarinets, guitars (both bass and 6-string), violins, and saxophones. And recorders. And there must have been a harmonica in there somewhere. My daughter, now a junior at the University, has played violin since she was nine. As for me, I put my guitar away a long time ago. Some days I regret that! My husband, who played clarinet all the way into college, is thinking of picking up our daughter’s old saxophone one of these days.

  9. Gunny Says:

    Mom had a piano, I had a guitar,I tried playing a French horn, ended up with a substitute and learned that I was not musically inclined bu the time I was in my late teens. Learning music became the second worse in life (worst was going to the dentist!

  10. I can’t carry a tune on an MP3 player, a Walkman or an I-pod.. Lol

  11. Don Says:

    Never learned to play a musical instrument nor read music. My brother on the other hand played guitar and in high school played in a rock band. However, being the youngest of 3 children my older siblings always thought I was too spoiled because I got more things than they did but after raising my two siblings my parents had more disposable income so there brothers! It all works out in the long run, thinking back my siblings received a lot of things I didn’t, they just didn’t realize it till later in life!

  12. Jackie Says:

    I….like you never learned to read music, I was too lazy, so I took the easy way out and played drums in Junior high. I got too busy with sports in high school to continue playing. My 3 children are very musically talented! Gavin especially! He self taught, guitar and harmonica, He was a drummer in middle school but does not read music. Was your sister the only one who played an instrument?

  13. Marilyn Says:

    Started playing a ‘liquorice stick’ in third grade. What a big disappointment – didn’t taste like candy at all! Later Dad bought an old piano so we could take piano lessons. Later I “picked up” the organ. It didn’t seem too hard to go from one keyboard to another, but my aunt was taking organ lessons and passed a good bit of her lessons on to me, too. Still playing piano or organ at church.

  14. Nope, no musical talent what so ever but I enjoy listing to music

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