I Was In A Band…

Me at the piano

Piano Dork

Okay, so it was the high school band.

And I was a huge dork.

You can’t tell, but in this picture I’m wearing a piano watch. I loved it! I thought it was so neat!

High school memories were brought to the forefront last week when I returned to my alma mater in order to attend the last high school concert that the band director would give before he retires. In fact, he specifically requested my presence. Not that I feel like I made much of a difference. After all, he’s had a ton of students in and out of his band room in the last eighteen years since I graduated. Two very exuberant ex-students of his were in attendance and said a few words at the concert that night. So why would I make any kind of a difference?

Kerry's Select Choir

Select Choir – The Best of the Best

When I was in school I participated in every musical thing that I could, except for the actual musical that the school put on. I wasn’t part of the ‘In’ crowd and I wasn’t the choir director’s pet so I never really felt like I was one hundred percent part of the choir groups. Even though I was surrounded by classmates who I really didn’t care for, I loved music enough that I tolerated them.

Kerry's French Horn Section

First Chair French Horn

Band, though, was a different story. In the band room we were all friends. We teased each other mercilessly, but all in good fun.

How do you know that the stage is level? Drool is coming out both sides of the drummer’s mouths.

Why did the clarinet player put her instrument case on her car dashboard? So that she could park in the handicap spot.

Yes, the brass players had quite the egos… and I loved every single joke that poked fun at the woodwinds or percussionists.

All of my favorite memories from high school revolve around band or the brass quintet. I can’t hear “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” without thinking about my brass group performing it. Or how we changed song titles to things that made us laugh, such as “Have a Tequila” (Hava Nagila).

Brass Quintet

Brass Quintet

I was the only girl, but yet I was one of the guys. When we got together to play we were a close-knit group and nothing outside of the room mattered. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t an athlete or that I wasn’t one of the cool kids. What mattered was that I could play the French Horn fairly well and the five of us sounded really good together. If you’ve ever been part of an ensemble then you know the exhilaration of a piece when it FINALLY comes together perfectly.

Without my band director I wouldn’t have been part of any of it. He had only been teaching for a few years when I was finally old enough to start taking an instrument in school. I think that was around fourth grade. My best friend, Pauline, and I both wanted to take flute because we tried to do everything together. Well, I did my best, but it wasn’t any fun. I explained to the band director that I would have to give it up because every time I played I got dizzy. He had an idea… and placed a trumpet in my hands. Technically speaking it was a coronet, but for you non-instrumentalists out there it’s a trumpet. He correctly figured that I was using way too much air that would be better put to use on a brass instrument. So I played the trumpet for about half of the school year in fifth grade. That Spring he says to me, “What would you think about switching to the French horn?” I was really enjoying the trumpet, though, so I told him that if Ryan (the other trumpet player in my class) didn’t want to switch then I would. Well, Ryan didn’t, which was good because he was a really good trumpet player (he’s in the blue shirt). In fifth grade I switched to the French horn and never looked back.

The band director was a French horn player, too, so maybe that’s why he took a liking to me. I remember this one day, especially, when I was in eighth grade. I was sitting in my spot in the choir room when the adjoining door to the band room opened. It was the band director. He asked if I could come over there for a second. We hadn’t begun to do anything in choir so I put my music on my chair and joined him in the band room. I was confused because Pauline and my mom were standing in there. What was going on? He pointed to an open French horn case and said that it was brand new and just for me. It wasn’t mine to keep, but it was mine to use while I was in school (our school provided the instruments for us so they weren’t always in the best shape). I didn’t know what to say! He had purchased a shiny new French horn for me! It had such a beautiful tone, too.

I wasn’t ever really proficient with the French horn. To be honest, I didn’t practice like I was supposed to and there were just some things that I couldn’t ever get like double-tonguing (not what you think!). But I was good enough to be part of the group. In a school where my classmates harassed me and I never felt like I belonged, band was my oasis. It was the one place where I could excel and not be picked on because of it. Band was the one class where I felt like the teacher didn’t have any teacher’s pets and he saw us for who we really were, not who our parents were.

So, despite the fact that I have no desire to see anybody from my old high school, save for Pauline, I went back and watched the director’s last concert before retirement. I even teared up when giving him his last standing ovation. He is a good man and I wish him all of the happiness and best of luck in this next phase of his life.

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