Monday, June 16, 2008

Sound the Trombone

I'm trapped in River City, people.

Well, one seventy-sixth of it, anyways.

Ken was finally able to finagle out of Skip how the Honors Band Audition went.

Oh... back story:

This year, like several years in the past, the band at Middle School is heavy and thick with trumpets and flutes; trumpets being the masculine everyone-wants-me instrument, and flutes being the feminine counterpart. There are thirty trumpet players? Forty? That's a LOT of trumpets. And when you factor into it that one of those trumpets is a cornet-playing kid who's been RECORDED, you can see that the bar is pretty darned high.

Now, last year, I made a lot of excuses for Skip, and why he didn't get into Honors Band. The audition was right around the time that Ken's dad nearly passed away, and Ken was out of the country, and then Ken's grandma died, and we didn't know if we should all go to Canada to the funeral, and miss the last week of school, bla bla bla, and Skip did about zero minutes of rehearsal while all this swirling stress was rolling through the house, and so when he didn't get in, I chalked it up to stress, and the fact that Every Last Other Kid that got into Honors Band playing trumpet was taking private lessons, and we just couldn't afford the time or money to do that for Skip.

Yeah. I'm an enabler.

So, fast forward to this year's auditions, and Skip's more focused. He really REALLY wants to get into Honors Band, but not for the reasons most people think. He doesn't want the glory, or the accolades, or the sweet gigs around town. He only... ONLY wants to get into Honors Band because every year at Halloween, the Honors Band takes the morning off, and walks up to Ben Badger Elementary (where Skip went), to play for the little kids' Halloween Parade.

And this year? He's already told me that he MUST go this year because this is the ONLY time that he will be at the same school with BOTH of his siblings. Yes, Kelly and Nate will both be at Ben Badger starting this year, and Skip is all family-sentimental like that, and wants to have this memory of "all being in the same place". I get a little weepy just thinking about it.

But there's the pesky matter of the Trumpet Audition. And this year you throw in a bolus of 6th graders who are eligible for Honors Band, including the child cornet genius, and two dozen kids who are taking private lessons, and one boy who only wants to play in the Honors Band so he can play for his brother and sister at Halloween gets lost in the shuffle if you're not careful.

Oh yeah, and then you add this into the equation: Skip discovered the Chapman Stick the week before Trumpet Auditions, and spent all his free time playing strings instead of brass. Yeah, "Smooth move, Ex-lax!" (as my brother used to say).

Things did not look good.

Err... that was a lot of back story...

So, anyways, yesterday Ken finally gets Skip to open up about the audition. They are in the car, heading to church.

Ken: So, Skip. How did the audition go?

Skip: I have a piece of paper to show you when we get home.

Ken: Sure, but how was the audition.

Skip: No, dad. I think showing you the paper will be better than me just telling you. It's a long story.

Ken: But did you DO the audition? Or what?

Skip: There were a LOT of trumpets auditioning...

Ken: And....?

Skip: Just wait. I really just want you to read this thing that the band teacher sent home with me.

So now Ken is stymied. WHAT could be on this piece of paper? Skip didn't look pleased. But he didn't look all "I just got suspended" defeated, either.

The piece of paper???

A letter from his band teachers. They're loaning him an instrument from the school for free over the summer. AND will provide it for free for the next school year...


If Skip will learn how to play it, and then play it in the Honors Band.

Seems there's a shortage of *good* trombone players in this generation.

Skip is just tickled pink. You see, when Ken was a kid, he wanted to join the band, and his dad said "Kenny, when you get in the band, there are going to be a hundred trumpet players, and you will NOT be the best one. BUT... if you ask the conductor what he NEEDS in the band, he probably will give you an instrument that nobody else wants to play, and you will KNOW that if you are the ONLY one that plays that, you are automatically the BEST one that plays that."

So Ken started off in the band as the ONLY/BEST Tuba player. He then went on to play EVERY instrument in the band (ironically enough, every instrument EXCEPT the trombone), and played so many of them that when his high school band went to a big foo-foo jazz festival/competition (complete with vendor displays), he felt confident enough that when a vendor offered to LOAN him a soprano saxophone (because they'd heard that Ken's band was going to be playing this one cool jazz standard that used a soprano sax, but they didn't have a soprano sax player in the band), Ken accepted the loaner sax, practiced for FIFTEEN MINUTES, and then played the soprano sax solo in the number and took home the gold! OR so the lore goes.

Yes, every family has its lore. And that's one of the old chestnuts that floats around in the Parker House. And Skip has internalized that story, and (even if he won't admit it), he wants to be Just Like Dad.

I don't blame him.

So we went to school this morning, Ken, and Skip, and Nate and I (Kelly is at camp. That's another entry), and the band teacher gave Skip a five-minute lesson on how to play the trombone, handed him a battered old Trombone Method music book, and a geriatric trombone in a beat up old black case.

I've been home long enough to write this entry, and Skip has already gone through the first 15 pages of exercises of the book. I'd say he's conquered about the first 8 months of Public School Trombone playing. That'd put him at about an early-fifth-grade Trombone Player level. I'd say by noon he'll have graduated from fifth grade, and will be as good as ANY sixth grade Trombone Player.

And he has the WHOLE REST OF SUMMER to conquer the instrument.

I guess that's the next you-tube video I should post: "Skip plays 'Flight of the Bumblebee' on Trombone after 4 hours practice"


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