Tonight, on my facebook wall, from Paul Barrett, appeared this post on how school instruments carry large amounts of germs.
This got me to thinking about my first bassoon. I’m willing to bet that they didn’t check the U-tube of a bassoon, as, I, myself, have experienced what can lurk in the dark depths of a school-owned instrument.
I’m sure we have all played a school bassoon at one time or another. In fact, I’m willing to bet most of you bassoonists started on a school-owned bassoon. Mine was a black plastic Linton, with a broken whisper key, and no cork on the tenor joint. We found out, shortly after getting it fixed for the first time, that the instrument was 45 years old.
The person who started me on this instrument was none other than the first bassoonist in the wind ensemble at school. Not only was she the first bassoonist and a senior, but she was the drum major. So, of course, she was super cool, and me playing the same instrument as her also made me super cool. Right? Totally.
But Candice gave me one piece of information I will never forget. “If you hear that crackling sound in the instrument, just suck out the spit from your bocal.” Easy enough advice, right? Well, what I didn’t know, and what no one told me was, that for 45 years, students (stupid, cootie-ridden, gross students) had been using my bassoon, with no swab, and oh yeah….that bassoon had been collecting dust, and other particles for 45 years. Let’s review that again….45 YEARS.
So, shortly after I learned to play the bassoon, and I was really cooking on the instrument, I had the chance to play in a local honor band. And, as in most honor bands, you play for long amounts of time, with no breaks. Well, playing for a long time, with lots of spit running through the instrument must have dislodged something, because, the next time I decided to clear my bocal of that horrible crackling sound, my bassoon decided to give me a little snack, for all of my hard work.
All of a sudden, I realized I had something squishy that tasted salty with a hint of slug, in my mouth. When I pulled it off of my tongue, I realized it was greenish/black and in a semi coagulated state. If you are gagging, simply at the image I am presenting you, think about how I felt! After running my bocal through with warm water in the sink, (which produced various sizes of clots that I had sucked up into the bocal) I realized I needed this “swab” everyone was talking about, and fast. As soon as I jumped into my mother’s car, I begged for a swab in which to take away the traumatizing toxic ooze that had come so quickly to the surface of my tenor joint.
After swabbing out my instrument, at least twice, I swore on all that was holy that I would never suck the spit out of my instrument ever again. I do it every once in a while, but at least now, I am the proud owner of a Fox 201, and I swab my instrument out after every play.
But this story, I tell to every student, as a precautionary tale of why we use swabs. 45 years of goo was enough of a one time lesson for me.