jan_can_too (jan_can_too) wrote,

Music in Schools

Last night I went to T.R.’s band concert. As far as I could tell in the general cacophony of thirty fifth-graders all playing at once, he did fine. When he plays his flute alone, I can tell he’s improved a lot, so I’ll assume, like a good parent should, that he was perfect and it was the other 29 kids who were off-beat and out of tune. Then I focused on knitting and snarky remarks while the sixth-graders, seventh-graders, eighth-graders, and high schoolers played, each with increasing competency. It ended up being fairly encouraging, really: if T. continues to play, he may actually make real music in the end.

The middle school band instructor appears to be a later version of the one who taught music in the elementary school and junior high of my own childhood. I changed schools before attending the junior high, but Rick, my ex, played trumpet under his tuition and confirmed my opinion: self-important jerk with a masochistic streak.

And, as Rick said at the concert, the man can’t even tell a story properly.

We were waiting for the stars to align for the high school band. He used this interval in conjunction with his monopoly on the mike to bombard us with the following loosely reconstructed homily.

Parents, as you sit there wondering about the talent quotient in your children, let me tell you not to worry. I remember being cut from my middle school basketball team. I argued that I could steal the ball and pass and dribble better than anyone. My coach pointed out that I could not shoot. The basket is, after all, infinitesimally small and I lacked talent. My mother was also told not to invest in my musical education because I lacked talent there as well.

(Here, he could either have told us about how he practiced and practiced at basketball and triumphantly rejoined the team and saved the day at the last buzzer or he could have tried to make the point that his subsequent career as a middle school music teacher belies the assertion that he has no musical talent. He did neither.)

Let me tell you about a video I saw on YouTube (he went on). It was of the Peruvian Youth Orchestra, conducted by an 18-year-old who had to walk uphill to school through the snow because his arms weren’t long enough to play trombone and he was stuck being first violin. If his conductor hadn’t been tardy, he’d still be a first violin today, but he jumped into the breach and conducted that youth orchestra at just 12 years old and everyone fell down and cried “Hosanna!” And while this man’s remarkable talent has absolutely nothing to do with your child’s ability to play the flute or clarinet or lowly triangle, I’m going to tell you the story anyway because my remarkable and more talented colleague who gets to teach band at the high school isn’t ready yet and you are stuck on hard, backless bleachers staring at fidgeting kids. Please encourage them to practice and let’s hear it for our volunteers who made this night possible.

After that speech, even a reprise of the fifth-graders’ two songs would have been welcome. That the high school band and the high school wind ensemble that followed played well was extra bonus points.

And I’m glad T.R. doesn’t play the triangle.

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