Nice looking trumpet, eh? The one pictured is not mine, but I have one just like it. It’s a Conn Connstellation 38B, probably produced around the same time mine was since the trim and features are identical. The one pictured could be the twin to mine as it was a few years ago. It is a gorgeous instrument and an excellent horn that plays so well that guys I know who play professionally have offered me a nice sum for it after playing the horn.
My parents sacrificed a great deal to buy the horn for me when I was eleven years old. My band director shamed them into buying me a decent horn, telling my mother “c’mon cheapskate, reward the kid for playing his butt off on that piece of crap he is trying to play”. And they did. It made a huge difference, one that paid off by allowing me to play very well even now, forty years later. I made my parents proud by giving them back some nice accomplishments when I was in school and it has helped me pass the torch.
Which is why I couldn’t give up the opportunity to pay it forward a few years ago. I saw the chance to help a coworker, a woman with several boys who I knew was struggling to support her family. When she told me her ten year old son may not get the chance to learn the trumpet because she simply could not find the money even to rent a horn, I didn’t hesitate. I offered to let her son use my horn.
Yes, I should have hesitated a bit more and thought about it more. The instrument is a valuable item. The horn is now considered professional quality, a coveted jazz instrument in particular, with a soft easy tone especially for a trumpet. The offer for my forty year old horn was first $500 and then went up over $800. A ten year old boy is likely not going to have the maturity to care for an instrument, that is the reason why there are beginner instruments. Depending on how long he uses the horn, it is likely not going to as valuable or even hold any value at all.
Not to loan reason — Value.
The kid has excelled as a musician. He has talent. Reports back are that playing such a quality horn has been a bit of a factor, if only because the boy is going to get a lot more sound out of a better horn than he would from a beginning level instrument. I know the reports have been for my benefit, but it’s real obvious that playing a good horn has provided extra confidence for the boy. That was all part of the motivation to pay it forward. I know what confidence that horn gave to me as soon as I began to play it at his age.
Reason to loan — Encouragement
Sometimes I wonder if people, including myself, do things for other people because of how it makes the person giving, not receiving, feel. You get the satisfaction of doing something that is good. I want to feel that I am good. That is likely why I am using the term “pay it forward” when I talk about loaning the trumpet. I knew it would make me feel good about myself, likely the top reason why I didn’t hesitate to make the offer. Honestly, I do not know if the motivation was a good or bad thing, but it did cause me to make a decision that I should have thought about more. But I am also not afraid to say that doing something good for someone else can be the proper motivation. We need to feel good about it. I also think that can not be the only reason. My experience in this situation has taught me that there was more I should have considered, that being the other person involved.
Reason to and not to loan — Personal Motivation.
My trumpet has not been mine for over two years now. I asked to borrow the horn back at Christmas so I could play in a Christmas concert. The bell from the horn is bent from being dropped. It has been carried around in a bag with the mouthpiece in the bag, damaging the nickel finish and putting a lot of dents in the horn. When I loaned the horn, my family was not happy when they found out because they were looking at how good of a horn it is/was, plus they would not be able to learn to play trumpet on my horn. They did not like what I did and they knew, as I did too, that I should have said that the boy could use the horn until they could afford a rental or to buy a horn. I didn’t. That was my mistake. The woman leased a new Chevy Traverse, a vehicle a whole lot nicer than I can afford to drive. The vehicle showed up a few months after I loaned the horn to her. I had no reason to be upset about that because I did not say that she needed to give it back to me after a few months. I said keep it as long as you need it. I wanted it to be that way. If I had thought about the other person, I would have made sure the rules were set down. I really did not help her the way I could have had I thought about it more. If I was meeting the real need, I would have done more than just give her something. I would have helped her provide something for her son that could become his own.
Reason not to loan — Meeting the real need.
The trumpet is just a thing. I had to tell myself that in order to let it go, to not be concerned about the condition it would be in when I got it back. The woman, someone who needed a friend, found someone she could trust. That is good. It was part of the reason I didn’t set down any conditions besides “just use it”. It felt like the THING needed to be offered in an unconditional way in order for the gift to be effective. The real value was the friendship, not the thing.
Reason to loan — Things are just that. Things. Whether it’s a stick of gum, a trumpet, a house or a car. They are things.
My 13 year old son is showing real musical talent. I say that about pretty much everything he does. He shows real talent. His interest is keen enough that he is playing in our high school’s jazz band, saxophone and guitar, as well as in his middle school band. I still get asked to play in local gigs with bands I used to play for. I can get Nate involved also if I do it with him. it would be good for us both.
So this morning I emailed my friend and coworker to ask for the trumpet back, gave her the reason why, and asked her to make sure her son has an instrument to play before she give my horn back to me, even if that means that is the end of the school year. The response I got back was one you receive from a grateful friend.
I did the right thing.