Tag Archives: music

Last Game

I was in marching band all through high school, two years of college, and worked with and directed marching bands my whole public school teaching career.  I have found it to be a great activity, even the glue that keeps some kids attending school.  The members become family, they take care of each other, and they are (usually) a part of the group for their full four years in school, making the friendships they make there very tight and close, lasting over the years long after their participation is done.  Band geeks, proud and simple.

I always wanted that opportunity and experience for my daughters, and I was quietly happy that they all chose to play instruments and even seemed cautiously enthusiastic about the rigors of marching.  They’ll tell a different story, probably, one in which we made them march for at least a year.  Maybe I did say that, but only because I knew what having a band family meant and I knew that once they saw what it was about, they would appreciate it as much as I did.  If they had never tried, they would never have known.

High school football games are not my favorite activity to attend.  They are often cold, sometimes rainy, always long evenings of a sport which is merely an addendum to why I and many other parents are really there.  I have made it to every one that I possibly could, including the band parent’s tailgates before the games to feed the kids, just to be there to watch my daughters perform.  Tonight is the last marching band show at a home game for my middle child. This will be Senior Night at the stadium, where all the Seniors in all the activities of the evening will be recognized: football, cheerleading, pom pon squad, and of course, band.  Though they have a few more marching competitions to aim for and the season is far from over, that makes this game an ending of sorts, a last.

Tonight I get to be a peripheral part of her high school band family again, and it seems like I should be sad to see the end of something that has played a big part in her life for the past four years.  Instead, I’ll get my picture taken with my tall Senior, and I’ll be the one beaming.


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Filed under Accomplishments, Friends, Looking Back, Parenting, Traditions


Last Spring I made up my mind to take a chance on trumpet performance, a neglected part of my past.  I began practicing in earnest, not just when I had something to perform for.  I searched out opportunities, made connections, and started to play much more.  Today, I have rehearsals four times a week and teach lessons on two nights.  I had the opportunity to play with three big bands over the summer, and now concert season is beginning again.  On paper that all looks like plenty, but there was another aspect of my musical past that I was ignoring: conducting.

As a school band director, I conducted daily and almost unconsciously, like breathing.  What I conducted was paced more by the limitations of my community band or school group than my conducting skills.  Yet when an email fell into my inbox inviting me to guest conduct a piece in the next University Alumni Concert Band concert, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to put myself out there, in front of a group again.  After all, I was a member of the group in order to play more, right?  Not to conduct.  It would just be an added distraction, and it had been years and years since I last held a baton in my hand.

It would have been easy and quick to decline and let them move on to the next person on their list.  I have plenty to do, between my playing and my family and my other commitments, and this would just be one thing more to take my time.  I haven’t conducted in a long time, I’d rather keep focusing on my playing, I’m just too busy.  Then, I started to suspect that there was a deeper reason I was leaning away from the invitation: I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore.

With that realization I reached my tipping point.  Last week I stepped onto the podium for the first time in almost fourteen years, rediscovering that wall of sound to mold, my other “instrument” that I had given up on ever “playing” again.  My baton shook a little as I made my first prep beat, but I regained confidence as the music blossomed.  I found myself making mental notes on what to rehearse next week, what to try, what to change, what to bring out.  I forgot my nerves, and let myself submerge in the music, doing what I used to do so fluently.

In seven weeks I’ll be standing on a podium in a major university auditorium, guest conducting the piece we have perfected.  Then the only question will be: how do I get more baton time?

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Filed under Accomplishments, Growth, Self Improvement, Self-realization

Comfort Zone

It’s supposed to be good to stretch and attempt things that are beyond what you think you can do.  Sometimes that involves noshing a bit of humble pie.

“Come on out and read the lead book.  The regular guy will be absent that night, but we’re just going to read through some stuff.  No worries.”  I used to play lead, many moons ago.  How hard could it be? I’ve been practicing lots, in pretty good shape, regularly playing with a different swing band, though lower parts – okay, I’ll do it.  It’ll be good for me.  I need more “face on horn” time.

After being welcomed graciously by the rest of the section last night, I was pointed at three huge binders of music and clued in to which book was which.  Off we went, calling numbers and plowing through music.  The first tune was a lead trumpet solo, of course, as were the next couple.  As the night went on, the lead parts got higher and higher.  I made it through, but I could tell I was just treading water and keeping my head up.  Granted, it was all sight-reading and stuff I hadn’t seen before, but I was hoping to have it go a little smoother, maybe make a good impression as well as advance my “being bold” campaign.

That’s where the humble pie comes in, of course.  Hubris.  Thinking I could step in and lead, where it turns out I am a better utility player.  The line between stretching past my present abilities and being able to deliver the goods that are needed for a job is a balancing act.  I maintained, and with practice, could probably contribute to the group, but I went home feeling pretty off kilter.  My faith in my abilities had been tested, and left wanting.

Back to the practice studio.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Growth, Self Improvement, Success/Failure

Yes, My Darling Daughter

Parenting advice has certainly changed over the years.  I have been having a great time discovering and rediscovering some old songs with the swing band I sometimes rehearse with; songs with titles that would never fly these days.  “Back Door Stuff”, “At The Fat Man’s”, “Beat Me, Daddy, Eight To The Bar”, “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”,  “Tail End Charlie”,  “Alibi Baby”, “How Come You Do Me Like You Do”, “Queer Street”, “Dodgin’ a Divorcee”, “Flinging A Whing-Ding”, “One Night Stand”.  Vintage music doesn’t have a monopoly on odd names, but sometimes it just illustrates what a different world it was back then.

We rehearsed one a couple of weeks ago that spoke directly to me, with my three daughters.  Be sure to click on the title of the following song and get the YouTube link to listen along.  In spite of the questionable advice that we don’t dare give to our girls, it’s a fun tune:

Yes, My Darling Daughter – Glenn Miller Orchestra  (1941)

Mother, may I go out dancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
Mother, may I try romancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
What if there’s a moon, mama darling, and it’s shining on the water
Mother, must I keep on dancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
What if he’ll propose, mama darling, when the night is growing shorter?
Mother, what should be my answer?
Yes, my darling daughter

Mother, will it be exciting?
Mother, do I look inviting?
What if he holds me tight & my knees just turn to water
Mama, what should I do?
What if there’s a moon, my mama darling, and it’s shining on the water
Mother, must I keep on dancing?
Yes, my darling daughter
What if he’ll propose, my mama darling, when the night is growing shorter?
Mother, what’cha think should be my answer?
Yes, my darling daughter

Oh mama darling, what if he holds my hand & then says, “Come just a little closer?”
Mother dear, what should be my answer?
Oh yes, my darling daughter

I love my girls, but the last thing I would advise them to say is “Yes, yes, yes!”  Welcome back to the year 2011.

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Filed under Changes, Looking Back, Parenting

Easter Morning

The one thing that has been certain to keep me playing at least once a year has been a standing job for our brass quintet in a beautiful church for Easter. We have been playing there for almost twenty years, though there have been some years I missed for various reasons such as having a newborn. Of course, that means that Easter morning for my children has never been storybook. The Easter Bunny leaves his loot, but I hardly ever get to have a traditional morning with them. That has been left to their grandparents, mostly, since when the girls were little my in-laws would arrive the night before and be there when my daughters woke up, long after we had left for the sunrise service.

Am I cheating the kids, and myself, out of the tradition of Easter morning discoveries and egg hunts and family coming over? Sometimes I have felt that way but, looking at it dispassionately, some years this gig was the only thing that kept me playing. Life was so overwhelming through the baby and toddler era that only the thought of the extra money to do something with encouraged me to get my horn out and find enough endurance for three services.  This year, I am coming at it from a different place since I am in the best musical shape I have been in a long time.  This is not the only job I will be playing, but it will be a benchmark that will help me measure how far I have come.

My family does have an Easter morning tradition, it just doesn’t always include me.   As long as I can play I’m okay with that.

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Filed under Parenting, Reflection, Traditions

Kid In A Candy Store

I walked into the music store for an eight dollar item and walked out with a bill that was twenty times that.  How does that happen?

I can rationalize everything that I got.  Books to use for my lessons.  Equipment I have been looking at and thinking about for quite a while.  Stuff that I hope will improve my playing.  It wasn’t exactly budgeted for today, yet that didn’t stop me.  My “why wait?” attitude may have saved me further research and the time it would take for the items to be shipped to me, but I always feel a little shell-shocked after similar forays.

This phenomenon happens all too often, and not always at music stores (though lately that’s a good bet).  Manufacturers are pros at getting your attention for things you didn’t intend to buy.  The same thing happens at the grocery store, the department stores, the book store.  I browse and find all number of things that interest me and attract me.  Sometimes I do that when I shop online, clicking through all the products available, but it’s easy to be sensible and take things off the final order if it’s more than I wanted to spend that day.  I end up with register shock far more often when I can see and touch the actual items.  It always seems that since it is in my hand, it should stay there.

If we ever move completely away from brick-and-mortar shopping, I may just spend less.  In the meantime, I have a few new toys to play with.

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Filed under Day to Day, Growth, Self-realization

Bon Voyage


My brain is going, and I hope it has a very nice trip.  I told myself I didn’t have rehearsal last night, and I totally believed myself.  There was just one problem with that…….  I was wrong.

It wasn’t my swiss-cheese memory this time.  I remembered it was Wednesday, and I knew I usually had rehearsal, but there is one Wednesday a month that the group doesn’t meet and I had it in my head that this was the one.  Ummm, nope.  That would be next week, of course, so I miss two weeks of playing in one of my very favorite groups.  Punishment enough, I suppose, though my trumpet section buddies probably won’t let me forget it for a while.

Along with a busy and varied schedule comes the opportunity to miss things in proportionate frequency.  Most of the time I am on task.  When I am not, I need to learn to roll with the punches, certainly taking responsibility for missed events or deadlines, but not beating myself up for them.  Lessons learned and all that.

It didn’t help that my section-mates were waving from the dock as my brain pulled away.  At least I could provide some amusement from afar as they sent messages to me and even posted a picture of some of the music I was missing out on.

Gee, thanks, guys.  I miss you too.

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Filed under Day to Day, Self-realization, Success/Failure