Friday, January 14, 2005

Let's hear it for the Marching Band!

Oh, band days. We live in a rural area, and our local elementary school, back 20 years ago, was Bad. Everyone agreed it was bad, except the first grade teacher who was heard to say, We learn these kids good here. So after considering the options, we decided to put the kids in Catholic school. This wasn't easy for us, we're not Catholic, or even spiritual. The story of their survival in the Catholic school system is a tale for another day. What I want to write about here is their transition back to public school when the oldest reached 7th grade.
Everyone said the local junior high school was a little rough. The kids of coal miners are often brought up to a tough standard of behavior, and kids raised more gently sometimes got trampled by the raw language, the fights, the disdain for all things academic. It's better now, we've all been urbanized and coal miners are more likely to run for the school board and city council as not. But in 1985, all the citified parents knew that the way for kids to survive at SJH was to be in the band. Most of the band kids had parents pretty involved in their activities, and because of the way school classes were organized, these same kids tended to be scheduled right thru the day with each other. So on the appointed day, I went to SJH to register my daughter for the fall.
I said, Oh, by the way, she'll be in band. The registrar said , What instrument does she play? and I thought DOH! I hadn't thought of that! I thought vaguely that they would assign an instrument. So, thinking fast I said, "Flute!" I mean, I couldn't think of which instuments were in a marching band, I knew her braces would give her heck if she played the trumpet, which was the only other instument I could think of. The registrar answered, Well, Mr. E (the band director) may want her to audition, and I thought DAMN! Better get a flute and figure out where the fingers go......
So off we went to the local music store where we rented a flute and got the name of a local flute teacher. She had about two lessons before summer band practice started, and she could no more read music than she could Sanskrit. She would come home and say, I played twelve notes today, and I'd say, Don't drop your hands in your lap and sigh when they get to the hard bits, just keep wiggling your fingers and nodding to the beat, no one will notice. R. cocked an eyebrow at me and said, "that's what the other kids said to do too." Mom's not so dumb. By the time band camp came, just before school started in Sept., she was an old pro. When school started, my somewhat timid daughter was confident in her new classmates, knew where the bathrooms and the cafeteria were, and had learned finger twindling --er, flute playing--like a master.

I learned my lesson though, and started her brother on drum lessons the same summer, a year before he started band. It's a lot harder to fake bass drum.

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