Last night, my family went to see Raiders of the Lost Ark at Blossom Music Center, with the soundtrack being played live by The Cleveland Orchestra. As the musicians were coming out and warming up their instruments, my husband noticed how excited I would get when certain instruments warmed up. He asked me a question he hasn’t asked me at all in the almost 3 decades together – what are my go-to pieces for warming up? Ok… let’s go through those songs.


The clarinet will forever hold the place in my heart as my first instrument. I could have learned violin in 3rd grade based on a musical aptitude test, but I didn’t want to play a stringed instrument then. I played clarinet in grade school, a semester in high school, and a semester in college. In grade school, I played the clarinet in band for 4 years and orchestra for 2 years. I’ve played a lot of songs over the years, and there are a couple that I use as go-to songs to get back into the swing of things.

Benny Goodman’s “In the Mood” was one of my favorite ones to get my fingers moving:

With the classical training, of course there is at least one more song that gets me – Gossec’s “Gavotte”:

One of my favorite pieces that I would end up playing on multiple instruments – Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture”:

I still have the clarinet I learned on from the mid-1990s. It has been rekeyed and recorked multiple times over the past decades. It still works well!

Recorder / Whistles

Yes, I had to play a recorder in grade school like many of the children of the 1980s did. Fortunately, there are a lot of similarities between clarinet and recorder that I didn’t mind it. In fact, I ended up picking up the tin whistle afterwards thanks to my Irish heritage. As an adult, I expanded the collection one step further – a tenor recorder! Next thing I want to get is a tenor tin whistle, like what was played in Riverdance. I’m finding that I like that lower range.

My go-to on whistles is the traditional “Irish Washerwoman”:


I picked up piano in grade school specifically for orchestra. The orchestra conductor caught that I had an ear for music. However, I couldn’t afford renting these instruments, so I would pick up parts during lunch and a half hour before orchestra to learn what I needed to for the show. Over the years, I still tinker with the keyboards – I have a full sized MIDI keyboard that I bought back in college and still works 20+ years later.

When I wanted to go reflective, I would go for Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1”:

When I wanted to go sentimental, I would go for Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”:


In grade school, we also had the diocesan honors youth orchestra. The conductor for that happened to be my orchestra conductor. She knew she had gaps she needed filled musically and that she could put me on them. I picked up a variety of melodic percussion at the time, with my favorite being the timpani. My ear for pitch made it a great fit for me, especially on songs where I needed to change the tunings.

This video captures all I love of Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 5” on timpani:

Double Bass

The last instrument I picked up in grade school, also for the honors youth orchestra, was double bass. There was one other bassist in the district, and she was awesome! I learned a lot from her and from the orchestra conductor. There was some nervousness picking up an instrument of that caliber for that orchestra, but I took to it well.

Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture” linked above was one of my favorite pieces to play. The other piece I used to love warming up with was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”, also linked above.

It turned out that I fell for its deep voice and being able to convey certain messages better. I bought my own in the 2000s and took lessons for a little bit. I still have my upright bass today. My bass instructor had me work through Thelonius Monk’s “Blue Monk”, and that was the energy I needed at that time.

Bell Lyra

The last of my instruments that I picked up and played for a few years was the bell lyra. I played it in the high school marching band for 10th-12th grades. I think my parents were nagging me to get involved with an extracurricular program and I wanted to follow my heart. Of all the pieces I had to play, there’s one that will forever be my favorite piece – “Olympic Fanfare” by John Williams. The immensity of that song plus playing the theme’s melody required just the right mallet work… so fun!

Missing Anyone?

Of all the different families of instruments out there, the only one I didn’t play was brass. I tried my uncle’s cornet when I was in 4th grade, but it just didn’t appeal to me like any of the other instruments I tried. Even as I’m older, I’ve written off brass as a family I enjoy listening to – especially Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie – but don’t have interest in playing. I’ll leave that to those who enjoy playing brass.

Music Theory?

Some of my music friends may be wondering – with all of those instruments, did I ever take music theory? Yes! I took music theory in high school. Long before I was exposed to a MIDI keyboard, I was composing with handwritten songs on staff manuscript. The work in various time signatures, key signatures, and modes… it was a great opportunity to explore parts of music with their formal names. I enjoyed the class, though I do tap into those skills rarely. If I want to get the music writing part out, I need the right muse. It takes a lot to get that part activated, and I honestly haven’t hit that in a few years now. But under the right circumstances, I’d break out the MIDI keyboard and let modern tools handle the translation from sounds in my head to notes on paper.

Collage of musical pics - older son playing the MIDI keyboard, younger son playing the recorder, double bass on its stand, and Sarah's composition
Older son playing on the MIDI keyboard, a snippet of my composition, younger son on recorder, and my double bass in its stand


So these are the go-to songs I had for each of the instruments I played. To this day, I still have the ear for matching pitch. I still use music as a way to rechannel the energy in me – playing the right songs to either redirect frustration or bring calm. Music will always be a part of me, at my core.

By sadukie

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