What The Instrument You Played In Middle School Says About You

by Connor Toole
Paramount Pictures

I'm still struggling to come to terms with the knowledge I'm considered an "adult." Taking into account just how little I currently know about what I want in life, it's insane we're still forcing young people to make decisions that will seriously impact them later on.

You might think I'm referring to college students who pick their career paths based on what classes are available the summer before freshman year, but I'm actually talking about a much more important choice.

It's a decision you make as a young person that can have an intangible impact during your most formative years. Looking back, it's clear I blatantly underestimated the importance of choosing which instrument I wanted to play in the middle school band.

Back then, I convinced myself this was the closest a mortal like myself could ever get to experiencing what it was like for Harry Potter to visit Ollivander's Wand Shop, because I was a stupid 11-year-old.

It might be infinitely less cool, but there is one similarity between the selection processes. The instrument you ended up playing offers a fair amount of insight into who you were in middle school, in much the same way wands held such high levels of importance in "Harry Potter."

Be sure to take all of these very, very seriously.


You learned everything you need to know about gender stereotypes from a very early age.

Based on my experience, if you were a girl, you played the flute because most of the other girls in your class decided to do the same thing.

If you were a guy, you played the flute because you were genuinely interested in the instrument and far too naive to realize how much middle schoolers like calling other people "gay."


You wanted to play the saxophone, but the case was way too big and heavy.

Years later, you'd come across a YouTube video of Benny Goodman and realize the clarinet could actually be used for more than playing the world's squeakiest version of "Hot Cross Buns."

It's too bad you didn't figure that out a decade earlier.


You wanted to be as cool as someone can be while simultaneously devoting hundreds of hours to the hope of becoming an easily replaceable and almost entirely insignificant component of a middle school band.

Of course, none of the above applies if you used some of those hours to learn how to play the opening riff from "Baker Street." If that's the case, you were cooler in middle school than most people can ever hope to be in life.

Baritone Sax

You tried too hard.



You really just wanted to learn how to play "Taps," and it turned into a multiyear saga that led to you eventually reaching your goal but having to deal with a level of soreness in your cheeks that doesn't even come close to justifying it.


You enjoyed the endless puns involving the word "bone" so much more than the instrument itself.

As a comedian, it's hard for me to knock anyone for that.

Tuba (or any unnecessarily large brass instrument)

You never really thought things through all the way, and your mom was the person who had to deal with the consequences.

You probably visited the ER a lot as a small child because you convinced yourself you could fly, and you probably picked the tuba because you knew you could use it to make fart sounds.

The one thing you forgot to keep in mind was you'd be playing an instrument that weighed as much as you did and was probably almost as tall. You also forgot to keep your mom in mind, because she was the person who ultimately had to lug it everywhere for you.

If you played hockey, you were probably a goalie.


You received multiple referrals to your guidance counselor to work on your "anger issues."

Based off my experience in school (and from watching "School of Rock"), the percussion section is where teachers stick the kids who smash things and can't come up with an answer when an adult asks them about it later.

I guess it's pretty hard to break a wooden block by hitting it too hard (plus it's less expensive to replace than a thin layer of brass fashioned into some sort of horn shape).

Violin (or any string instrument)

You went to private school.

I guess you could have also gone to a charter school or the only public school in America that still cares about the arts, but those are exceptions to a very strict rule.


I'm putting this last because most people didn't have the chance to play guitar at a school-sanctioned concert apart from the yearly talent show where the people who made up the three "rival" rock bands in your grade played their favorite Green Day songs.

However, if you somehow got to play guitar in the real band, you were really ahead of the curve and also probably pretty insufferable at parties in college before you realized other people also knew how to play "Wonderwall."