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Musical Mishaps Series: Cases of Misplaced Instruments (it happens!)

Musical Mishaps Series: Cases of Misplaced Instruments (it happens!) featured image

Dramatic hostage situation in which canine Baxter is to be traded for canine Lola when a violin was left behind in the back of a car … 

“Hey. Am I forgetting something?” Leaving your instrument behind is very much a thing for musicians. As you may know, it happened to Yo-Yo Ma – he infamously left his priceless cello in the trunk of a NYC cab and a huge city-wide search, including the City of New York was involved, to find it. (It was retrieved, safe and sound).

Sometimes it’s understandable – you’re on tour, tracking suitcases and transport schedules, and your daily schedule is far from routine and you simply forget something. Other times, you are SO set in your routine, going to a usual gig (like a musical, night after night and weekends too) that your mind wanders while on autopilot, and you forget your instrument somewhere – even one as big as a cello (which one person commented had been forgotten at home by a friend on his way to a CELLO LESSON). Today, I asked a few musicians to talk about their own experiences with forgetting their instruments. Names were withheld (for the most part) to avoid endless shaming by colleagues and students.

The violinists are, hands down, the most forgetful!
It’s not me, it’s the alcohol
It’s the pub’s fault. And I’ve been to a lot of them. I’ve done it a few times, but always realized about four blocks away from the pub. And yet, mostly I feel naked without it on my back!

The Kingston incident
I once left my violin on a bus that the orchestra/choir took to a Kingston gig! There were a couple of stops, so when the last stop was disembarking, a choir member noticed it and took it. I picked it up in Toronto when I eventually found out who had it! Sooooo scary!!!!!!!

The Rochester incident
I left it at the concert hall at Eastman in Rochester after a rehearsal. I went for lunch at a cafe about 15 minutes away. Didn’t realize I left it at the hall until I was waiting for my order and I sat next to one of the pianists. He started talking about how it was going to rain and then I realized I had left my umbrella at the hall … THEN I realized I left my instrument too. I raaaaaan all the way back and there it was sitting in the empty lobby, all by itself thankfully! Phew!

The Spanish Inquisition
On a train in Spain, I almost had a heart attack when we got to the hotel and my violin was missing. Went back to the station but everyone was on siesta so I ate Spanish McDonald’s which tasted like sawdust through the fear. Felt as though I was losing part of myself. The man at the office finally returned after a nice, long, siesta, and my fiancé and I desperately tried to speak Spanish with him while he gave is attitude about how in Spain we should speak Spanish properly. After I made some exaggerated air violin gestures, then Hallelujah! He begrudgingly found my baby which was hidden away in a storage room, complained about how they thought it might have been a bomb (there had been a few recent terrorism scares) but then broke a small smile when he saw the unabashed flood of relief on our faces. Glorious relief and promises to myself to never do it again. And I haven’t yet! (Maybe a few close calls.)

The Freudian “forgetting” of the violin
My student came to her violin exam with no violin. I can’t remember how we dealt with it – I think she used my violin. She really didn’t want to be playing violin, she wanted to be running around and now she runs through the mountains in Germany. She’s amazing. She actually does run through mountains in Germany, like a triathalon kind of thing, but it’s running through mountains. How cool is that?

Gone with the Winds
The “case” of the missing flute
I put my case in my bag, got to orchestra rehearsal, opened the case and felt the worst feeling in my life. I left my flute at home! So I sheepishly told the conductor and went to get it. Came back and tried not to call attention to myself for the rest of the rehearsal.

From a singer-songwriter about her flutist colleague
My old flute player I worked with left her flute on the street in Parkdale in front of our other band mate’s brother’s condo building, where we had just stayed the night. No clue how we missed it sitting there on the curb. We arrived in Peterborough for our next gig, unloaded the gear, her flute was not there. Tore the rental cars apart. Nothing. She’s despondent because we assumed it got left in the last car we had just exchanged. We get a text an hour later from band mate’s brother, who was in Las Vegas at the time – someone had actually given the flute to the doorman of the condo, who knew that musicians had been staying in the brother’s suite the night before. So we did a show without flute, but at least knowing where it was – such relief .

From a flutist who takes public transit
Bus stop bench …! I got on the bus and about five minutes later, I realized that I left my instrument on the bench. So I screamed and asked the bus driver to stop … and I ran. When I got there, the flute was GONE already … I walked into the closest store and someone left it there. (Smiley emoji)

The bus chase
Forgot my oboe on a public transit bus when I was coming home from high school. Panicking in the car with my mum, we drove like bats out of hell to the last stop on the route, and incredibly, the bus I’d been on was there, with my oboe still aboard. There must be a million stories like this out there. Still can’t believe mine had a happy ending!!!!

From a globe-trotting sax player
Falafel shop, streetcar, cab … but not all my fault! The falafel shop owner hid my sax as a joke when I went back. He burned me! The streetcar incident – that was a friend who was tipsy. The sax was finally returned to Long & McQuade, where a novice tried to sell it and got scared and ran when they wanted his info (they’d been on the lookout). The cab incident was in Cuba, I think, but we had his number and he came back. And then there was the time when we were travelling in two separate vehicles. Someone grabbed my sax and and took it to where they were staying that night. When the group showed up the next day in a town (Hull, UK) hundreds of miles from where we were staying, no one had it. So, I had to do a live radio recording on a borrowed sax with a different mouthpiece and reeds … the live recording was stressful for sure, but hey, it was jazz with the Shuffle Demons … the mistakes are what made it interesting!

Cellos may be large, but clearly, still forgettable:
Drinking in the Rockies
Props Pub, The Banff Centre, also the Rose and Crown pub in downtown Banff … it was a busy time.

Oh mein Gott
I left it behind the door of my evening German 100 class at U of T. I didn’t realize until I was halfway to the Faculty of Music after it had finished at around 9PM and dashed back, relieved to see the building and doors all still unlocked.

Even pianists have issues
Since I am a pianist, I cannot leave my instrument behind, so I cannot be part of the fun. So my story will be something entirely different but just as awful that happened to a fellow pianist friend of mine.

You are a pianist. You are dressed in a tuxedo. Imagine leaving your briefcase of scores locked in your car while you ran into a cafe to grab a quick bite of dinner on the way to the big orchestral concert; returning to your car to find it has been broken into and your briefcase is gone. And the scores included one for an enormously difficult, long, contemporary work that you were just about to perform with the Vancouver Symphony at the Orpheum Theatre, which is NOT the best part of town. And that, still in your tux, in a complete frenzy, you rushed to every dumpster within a several block radius and frantically went through them with your bare hands searching for the briefcase, and/or the score, dirty needles and all (Vancouver) and that you found it …I might have a couple of the timeline details slightly off, but otherwise, this is absolutely TRUE!

The brass always have the best stories.
From a trombonist-turned-lawyer
When I was in Calgary, the principal trombone arrived at a concert to find that he had brought his case, but forgot his trombone at home. Impressive driving ensued. Made it in time. Not naming names, but his initials are Doug Hornberger!

From a bass trombone/tuba player
Long story, I’ll try to keep it short:
Back in the mid 90’s, while I was playing bass trombone at Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages, fellow PEIslander Herb Poole was doubling on bass trombone and tuba at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Miss Saigon. I was very fortunate to sub for him frequently- happy for the extra pay because of the double (meaning, extra pay for playing two instruments in the same gig) but also just to play different music!

Anyway… I was sitting home on my night off and shortly after 8 pm, Herb calls and says “I’m at my show, but I’m sick. Can you come down and take over ASAP?”

I loaded my bass trombone and tuba into my car and got down to the threatre pretty quickly to take over about half way through the first act. When I arrived, I got my horns out and tried to figure out how to sneak in without disruption. The problem was that nearly half the pit was consumed by every percussion instrument imaginable – from traditional orchestral and drum kit to exotic eastern gongs and gamelons. There was no way to get both horns through the maze so I decided that I’d bring my bass trombone in with me along with just my tuba mouthpiece- and because Herb’s tuba was similar to mine I would leave my own behind.

I successfully crawled through the percussion enclosure without a peep and although Herb looked very green he was happy to see me. We exchanged places and I proceeded to honk away on the bass trombone feeling quite proud of myself for saving the day. “The show must go on!” All was well until the big helicopter landing scene on stage that called for an immediate switch from bass trombone to tuba to bark out appropriate helicopter-like low notes.

I forgot to replace Herb’s mouthpiece with my own. The smell and taste made me very aware of just how sick Herb was. I’m getting sick again just thinking about it!

I thought drummers would forget only their sticks, but ….
Years ago I left my cymbal bag in a cab like a fool. It was raining, I wasn’t paying attention and I didn’t have the cab company or any info at all. After calling around for a few days I gave up. The biggest bummer was that my dad who is an amazing leather worker had hand made my cymbal bag for me. a week later, I get a call on my cell phone from the cab driver who dropped me off who had been trying to hunt me down ALL WEEK. He had gone to a few of the clubs in the area that had music asking if they had heard of someone losing their cymbals, and the sweet people at the Tranzac (a community centre/performing venue) pointed him in my direction. He insisted on coming by my place at no charge to deliver them. I gave him as much cash as I could afford at that point which was $150 and he seemed super grateful and tried to refuse it. He had to leave right away because he was on his way to drop off a bag someone had left in his car the night before. Unbelievable, sweet human being.

The hostage situation
Back to violins for a moment. Below are photos from what happened when Gryphon Trio violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon was forgetful enough to leave her violin in the back of pianist Jamie Parker’s car. A tense-filled hostage situation ensued involving pets as well as the violin, but all was resolved in the end and they still perform together.

#MusicalMishaps

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