Life is Lovelier with Lace. . .and the French Horn


It all began when I was to enter the realm of junior high. “What instrument would you like to play, in the high school band, Debbie? You have the choice between the french horn or the baritone.”

To this day I do not understand exactly why the choice was between these two instruments. I was not even sure what they were each like! I chose the baritone. Not because I liked it more, but because my older sister had already chosen the french horn.


“It would not be wise to play the same as she,” I thought.

It was a huge junior high band. I do not even remember the band room. I do remember the name of the band teacher: Mr. Davenport. Also trying to inconspicuously carry my baritone from home to school on the school bus.

Was this a dream (rather, a nightmare) that somehow, while in route to the band room from the school bus, the clips of my baritone case came undone and the horn clanked out onto the linoleum floor?


School books were in my other arm. I was surrounded by hustling classmates trying to beat the bell to 1st hour class.

The junior high school was humongous. Both in physical size and student count. As for the gangly 12-13 year old 7th graders: new to the huge building and new to the high school pressure, to successfully arrive to your classroom before the bell, in a by-all-means, cloaked, nonchalant manner, was a mighty feat to conquer.


This is the venue where I dropped my baritone, with a clang.

And this was the beginning of the end of my love for the baritone.

With a sudden move to a small, Garrison Keillor/Praire Home Companion-type town, I wondered what the future would hold for me in the band room of my new junior high school.


“Might I switch to french horn,” I asked the new band teacher, Mr. Saari. His answer was “No,” followed by reasoning suitable for band staff. “Lots of french horn in the band already. Baritone is in need.” 

So I continued on with my baritone. I was one of three baritone players. I recall at least twice that many french horn players in a row behind me in the band room.


“Baritone music was possibly more interesting than the french horn music, anyway,” I rebuttaled within myself, so as not to quit the whole thing.

And somewhere following that thought, there came another piece of music that actually had a baritone solo in it!

The Water is Wide. I shall never forget the name. Not until recently did I confess to ANYONE that every time I played that piece in band, I cried. While I was playing it! I was so afraid Mr. Saari would notice. “Surely not. He has so many others to look at!”


It was such a beautiful melody. And the mellow sound of the baritone matched it so nicely.  “But still not like the french horn,” my stubborn heart continued to maintain.

Many stories could be told about the baritone and me. Like how strep was passed on to me (a pewny eighth grader) by a high school senior, via our shared baritone. Yes, we did not share mouthpieces. We each had our own!


Or the volumes of sweat that poured down my brow every summer in marching band, as I lifted my marching legs up high, and swang my horn back and forth during The Horse interludes.

The sweat would be discovered by all at the end of the parade. My plumed band hat would come off to reveal my persperated, wet, matted hair. My female peers looked cool as a cucumber.

“If only I could play flute or clarinet, like they do. Swinging a smaller, more feminine instrument side to side would leave my hair (and pride) in better shape!”

Watch “Instrument: Horn” on YouTube

Time went by. High school graduation. College graduation. Mother of toddlerhood. Times four. And suddenly band entered the picture again. This time for my boys!

The first son began playing the trumpet. The second, the trumpet! (“Yes! That can happen,” I shrieked! “Why did I not do that?”)

Following the two trumpets, we had trombone player! And finally, the forth son chose trumpet again.


Somewhere in the midst of all this developing brass, I was able to pick up a french horn and join them! In fact, there was at my disposal not just one, but two french horns! And I had a new friend to teach me! Not just teacher, but a french horn master! One who had vocationed in professional orchestra! What a blessing to be under her tutelage.

Watch “Canadian Brass – American Patrol” on YouTube

“Canadian Brass,” thought I aloud to the three trumpeters and one trombonist! And so with CB music on the music stands, coupled with a lot of group practice, we played Canadian Brass. 


Many lessons were learned by all during this memorable time. Lessons that have less to do with musical notes, and much to do with…attitude. My attitude included. ☺ But really, attitude is the main lesson of music practice. Interestingly, when the attitude and the ability both mature, you have some beautiful harmonies.



And, I believe we succeeded in both. Hats off to Canadian brass! Hats off to practicing! Hats off to attitudes! Hats off to brass! To trumpets! To trumbone! And last, but not least, hats off to FRENCH HORN!

Life is Lovelier with Lace…

Playing French Horn was a fulfillment of a dream for me. But that time has come and gone. Now, I remain with the memories. More memories than can be written here. Memories that make me smile.


Beautiful sounds come from the french horn bell. Beautiful lace comes from the crochet hook. So I am still so very satisfied as I now have opportunity to make music with my crochet hook!

~Debbie Ludvigson

The Ludvigson Lace Lady 


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