So. I decided to grow a beard. Because I can, more or less. It's kind of thin on the sides, but I've got a pretty decent goatee going, and the sideburns aren't too bad. I don't look quite like a 14-year-old trying to look mature. I know, I have one of those in the house!
But there are a couple of things that could be dealbreakers, and make me shave immediately. One is simply if it's annoying, and sometimes it is, but most of the time it's ok. A friend at work told me I needed to give it at least two weeks, and that turns out to be true: it became much less scratchy and irritating after about two weeks.
Another, the part that makes it relevant to this blog, would be that I would have to shave if having the beard somehow adversely affected my trombone playing. And well, it did at first, but I have found some ways around it. And last night I got some opinions from the other men in the AWCB, whose experiences mostly match mine!
The first thing I noticed as the soup strainer was growing in was that during that annoying period between a week and two weeks, playing was really uncomfortable. After that, it got back to downright tolerable, no better or worse than just plain playing. After a little while, though, I noticed that if the hair on my lip got too long, basically to the point that it would hang below my lip when I had a mouthpiece in playing position, it would mess with my attacks to the point that I couldn't play. Keeping it trimmed to somewhere between two and three weeks worth of length seems to be keeping that manageable. This is the first point of agreement with the men of the AWCB: with one exception, anybody who has had a mustache agrees that it must be carefully trimmed to make playing possible.
The second problem I had was that my low range all but vanished from Eb T2 on down: no trigger range, and no pedals at all. This seemed to be a function of keeping the corners of my mouth shaved, and the area just below my lower lip trimmed. Again, this seems to be a common complaint from trombonists around me, although it was a dealbreaker for at least one of them. He couldn't work around it, and gave up and shaved from frustration. I've noticed that with some more concentrated practice, I'm starting to get the lower range back; hopefully it will all be there with a little more work.
At the bottom line, it appears to be completely possible to continue to play at a reasonable level with some appropriately trimmed facial hair!