Rare is the reed to pass through the stringent trials and live up to the expectation demanded by Marcellus. One day I found him sitting at a long table on which was spread an enormous pyramid of perhaps 200 reeds. At the base, stretched about half the total. As the pyramid ascended along the table toward the top fewer and fewer reeds made the grade. The pinnacle waited for a single reed, which, so far, Marcellus had not found.
The lessons passed quickly and soon my father was picking me up outside the Conservatory for the last time. As Marcellus lit his cigarette and glided off in his blue Chevy convertible, I waved to my past teacher of six lessons. He was already disappearing back into the glamorous world of the classical symphony orchestra and didn't see me. My father, who had paid the princely sum of $20 an hour for the lessons turned to me in the car and asked, “Well, what did you learn from Mr. Marcellus?” Simple question, but I couldn't think of an answer. I breathed out, then took a fresh bit of air and said, “well, he told me to play the clarinet with more honesty.” The trip back was very quiet.
Excerpted from Another Name for God copyrighted 2015, Richard Stoltzman