Celebrating essential harmonies in life
Veins pulsed from his temples as he glared at us from the top of the wobbly scaffolding.
“Trombones, you stink. Back to chart 12, all of you. Move it.”
Mr. Line screamed at us through his megaphone. Seniors rolled their eyes. Dancers blushed at the low brass section. And freshmen scurried like field mice to the previous formation.
I still endure teasing about the ignoble stigma of being a “band geek” in high school. John Hughes in all his glory could not emulate the dregs of high school’s gawkiest, most disparaged group of individuals.
Years (and many sessions of therapy) later, it is a teasing I embrace.
Because as my friends and I crouched in foxholes dredged against pubescent heckling, an immortal camaraderie formed. The same friends who marched beside me on football fields walked with me down the aisle at my wedding. The same friends who squawked out first notes on the clarinet with me were the first to know of my pregnancies. And if we live long enough, they’re the same friends who’ll share a room with me at the nursing home.
See, band friends share something other folks don’t . . . folks who’ve never held an instrument . . . folks who’ve never sang a song . . . folks who’ve never known what happens when a child learns music.
March is Music in Our Schools Month.
A worthy cause for celebration.
Because when life happens — really happens — music is always there.
Someone celebrates a birthday.
And we sing.
Someone buries a brother.
And we sing.
The scenes are set to music.
And we sing.
An earthquake destroys a country.
And the people link arms and sing.
This one time, at band camp, we stood, unmoving, at the end of a powerful ballad. All 150 musicians — even the drum line — wept. Tears streaming. Barely breathing. Hearts strung together like notes on a measure. We knew we’d done more in that moment than perform. We reached the ethereal place music takes people when it permeates the hardest parts of the heart.
The place where some of us are whole notes, long, sad and deep.
Where some of us are grace notes, bringing delicate edges to a rough and tattered world.
Where some of us carry the melody, leading others through the fortes and pianissimos, the crescendos and decrescendos of life.
Where some write the scores, notes streaming from places in the heart too deep to express or work into words.
And at the beginning of every score is someone who taught the composer how to play their first note. How to clap their first rhythm. How to read their first measure.
If you know someone who teaches music, celebrate him this month.
Thank her, profusely.
For those who teach music are not merely teachers.
They are magicians, wizards, prophets, alas, even priests.
Who instill fundamentals and weave rudiments and orchestrate hope into the essential harmony of life.