Last post, I wrote about my son bouncing from instrument to instrument in his school’s music program. Since this seems to be a genetic condition, it’s fair I explain how he inherited his musical vagrancy.
In sixth grade, three friends and I decided to become drummers. The music teacher needed tuba players, but tubas weren’t how we wanted to make noise; we needed to bang on stuff. We began with borrowed sticks, playing on an old wooden table. Eventually, each bought a lesson book, sticks, and a little drum pad. At year’s end, the music teacher retired. I presume this retirement was planned before he met us.
Meanwhile, my mother put me in piano lessons. My sister was going to college and Mom didn’t want to lose my sister’s time slot with her highly regarded music teacher. The teacher’s reputation was a mystery to me. She was a hoarder. Her piano was an extension of her clutter. It gave me anxiety to sit at it.
She was a chain smoker. Her house reeked of stale tobacco. Between puffs, she instructed me. I recall an image of her swatting my fingers with a ruler when I messed up, but that must be an invention of embellished memory. Yet, I did frustrate her by messing up a lot, and there was certain to be a ruler somewhere among the old newspapers and cherub figurines.
I hated piano.
Our junior high and senior high were combined, so 7th grade put me in the high school band. The music teacher was new. On the first day, we sat on risers as he called out the various sections. Players of the called section stood and were directed to their places. Brass, woodwinds, percussion, etc., he went through them all. When he finished, four of us remained. He looked at us sideways. “Well, what are you then?” he asked.
We looked at each other. One of us marshaled the courage. “We’re drummers.”
The room exploded with laughter. The teacher shook his head and pointed toward the back, where the older percussionists stood in their places.
We must have ruined that teacher’s day all year, because in 8th grade we had a new one. After enduring our playing for a while, he decided we should try other instruments, just in case. The school had one alto sax available, which two of us wanted. We held a competition for it. I made the least cringeworthy noise come out of it, so I won.
I was even worse at saxophone than piano. All I played were overtones, until I got winded and whatever tune I was playing shut down completely, at which, no one complained.
Spring brought marching season. I was still playing a snare in band. One scorching hot parade day, the bass drummer developed a problem walking and keeping a beat simultaneously. The band teacher asked me to carry the bass. I thought I was in a position to negotiate. I said I’d do it if he gave me an A in band. In my mind, he agreed.
Maybe I had a lot of balls, trying to bargain with my teacher, but I was fixed when I sweated them off under that tyrant drum. But I kept the beat.
I got a C+ in band.
The next year we had yet another new band teacher. I didn’t care. Stung by band teacher treachery, I took Home Economics instead. Our town sounded better, and I baked brownies. Things have a way of working out for the best.
You didn’t burn the brownies?
If anything, the were undercooked. The teacher insisted on using the baking times on the box, which are most often inadequate. Maybe the class was more about following instructions than making great brownies. I don’t know.
I remember thinking that baking powder and baking soda could be used interchangeably. My chocolate chip cookies did not seem to agree.
And I thought cooking sherry would be fun to drink out of the bottle. For the record, it was not.
You went through music/band teachers like you went through bosses. Ever consider you might be the problem? Luckily you are still on your first wife!
Oh, I know I’m the problem. Just ask my wife.
My musical history is so boring! Great post!
Train wrecks are always more interesting.
Special brownies? 😉
Come on! I was in 9th grade. Those recipes weren’t handed out until 11th grade Home Ec.
Well you never know..
Yeah, people get confused all the time because I seemed like a kid who was probably able to skip a few grades.
You probably could. You’re a brilliant writer.
And now I’m a blushing writer.
Do you need a fan?
I got one.
My folks pushed me into music as a kid. All instruments require two hands which I a still not able to cooperate simultaneously. Today, after 70 years of failure, I am quite adept at the nose flute.
Persistence pays off!
Hmmmm …. If you went through so many instruments just explain how you only have one wife. I don’t see the connection. Or perhaps the brownies got you settled down to accept marital bliss with one wife? This is a puzzle. One that is meant for contemplation.
It’s harder to find lessons for new wives, so I figured I’d stick with the one I already sort of know. It also helps that she’s not a chain smoker or hoarder . . . well, she’s not a chain smoker anyway.
Teehee ….. I live with a hoarder so … I know. Every time I make space and turn around that space is no more. I myself have trouble throwing out what I don’t use. In my head I hear “You never know one day perhaps …” As for the spousal thing … I have mine trained to put the toilet seat down. What more could I possibly want? LOL
Wow! He puts the seat down every time? Sounds like Valentine’s Day is every day at your house!
Yup. You got it! I grew up with FIVE brothers, remember, and that was my intention right from the start 36 years ago …. you WILL learn to put that seat down. Thank you! LOL
It pays to have your plan in place from day one.
This was funny to read! But I hate hearing of awful music Ed experiences!
I hated living them. But my potential was small, so the end of my life as a musician was not a Great American Tragedy.