In this post I thought I should write about the merits of ensemble directors deciding what instruments their students should play. Once again, just as with a few previous posts, I will relate an experience from beginning band class in 2011.
On the third or fourth day of class, whilst everyone else was choosing their instruments, I asked our director what instrument I would play since most people had either already chosen their instruments or were in the process. The director said, just loud enough for me to clearly hear him over several instruments, “You’re playing the bass clarinet.” At that particular moment I was very interested in playing the oboe, but apparently our director had other plans; he had talked me out of the oboe by convincing me that the oboe takes a very long time to develop a good sound. By putting me on the bass clarinet, our director was able to satisfy his desire for a neutral-sounding low-pitched instrument, which the bass clarinet certainly is.
But was our director right to choose an instrument for one of his students with what I perceive to be the ultimate aim of fulfilling his own musical desires? As a former music ed major I think this is one of the most difficult questions to answer, and it may as well result in some very deep divisions within the music education community. Personally, I do not think our director was right to choose my instrument: I think the band would have sounded just as good with, say, a baritone saxophone or even a bassoon, but our director was dead set on the bass clarinet.