Tuesday, September 22, 2009


quirky 9-09
When he was young, my father played the trombone.

My mother played the flute.

So, of course, it was only natural that when I got old enough, I would play a band instrument. Actually, growing up, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't play an instrument. It's not that my parents pushed it or anything. I've actually never seen my father with a trombone in his hand. It's just something that I assumed would happen. Actually, I assumed that ALL people learned how to play an instrument, and I remember being quite surprised when I learned that this wasn't the case.

I chose to play the clarinet. We had a book in our house called Would you Rather be a Bullfrog? by Dr. Seuss. In it, there was a page with a picture of a clarinet, and the question, "Would you rather be a clarinet, a trombone, or a drum? (How would you like to have someone going BOOM BOOM on your tum?). I remember turning to that page often, and knowing that THIS was what I wanted to play.

And so it was that when I was registering for the sixth grade, I signed up for beginning band. I spent the next three years learning how to play the clarinet in the windowless middle school band room, tapping my foot, and watching Mr. Larry Wright in his rainbow suspenders as he tried to keep me and about forty-nine other young aspiring musicians on the same beat at the same time, and playing some semblance of the right notes.

I've thought about Mr. Wright quite a bit over the years. The thing is, there are people who appreciate good music, and there are people who appreciate other things. There are people who can hear a well-trained singer, violinist, flautist, or any other musician, and feel the beauty of that music all throughout their soul, and there are people who can't really tell the difference between a world-class musician and a run-of-the-mill musician.

I never asked Mr. Wright, but I'm just guessing that he was one of those who felt the beauty of well-performed music in his soul.

And yet, he spent hours and hours every day for years and years hearing music that was anything but well-performed. Squeaks and shrills, missed notes, and so many other imperfections filled his ears day after day after day. Then, just as some of his musicians were getting good, he would send them off to high school and start with a brand new crop of novices.

I'm sure there were rewards--the thrill of teaching a particularly gifted student, the joy of having the band get it right after having them get it terribly terribly wrong for several weeks, little joys along those lines. And let's not forget that huge paycheck that all public school teachers take home every month.

But, the fact remains that Mr. Wright chose to spend his days surrounded by beginner band music, all the while knowing what good music really was. If that's not a heroic sacrifice, I don't know what is.

Mr. Wright passed away several years ago. I never told him thank you, and I regret that now. I'm not a great clarinetist or anything like that. I actually haven't touched my clarinet in at least fifteen years, and my niece uses it now in her middle school band.

However, one of my childhood goals was to learn how to play the clarinet, and Mr. Wright made that possible for me.

That makes me feel like one lucky lucky girl.

Thanks, Mr. Wright.


125azul said...

Music is a funny thing, and it seems like those who truly love music have a higher understanding of how things really work. I can picture Mr. Wright going home after a day of school and putting on a record of some great orchestra playing a brilliant classic piece, knowing in his heart that one day more than one of his kids would do the same and feel music in their hearts. And just knowing that was probably the world for him.

Thank you for sharing your experience with a pearl of a person like that. And thank you for being one of the persons out there who knows that any time is a good time to say thank you :)

Nate said...

Wow! I just had an acid flashback to middle school! ((Shudder)) Honestly I can say that I didn't like Mr. Wright all that much, at the time. But I've looked back on it before and he must have had a manic music appreciation gene to put up with middle-schoolers for all of those years.
I remember him stopping the honor band right in the middle of a performance because we were so far off track. (The trumpets were resting at that point so it clearly wasn't my fault. My money is on the clarinet section - you could never really trust the woodwinds).
Mr. Wright also made it very clear that the girls were to wear dresses and the boys to wear "trousers" for our performances.
I also liked going on "tour" to all of the elementary schools. I remember looking up to them in elementary school and now I was part of the band! Going straight from beginning band to honor band (two year alumn!) is pretty much my biggest acomplishment in my life. You know, aside from getting married, graduating from college, mission, adopting two boys, and getting my master's degree. But Sixth on the list is my two years in honor band!

Dad P said...

Any one that can spend his life teaching Jr. High kids music deserves a special place in heaven.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...