I Wish I’d been in the Band

We have one of those Amazon “Alexas” and from time to time I’ll holler “Alexa play songs from: ” and then just choose an artist I want to hear and she’ll start playing the songs. I asked for songs by the group “Chicago” today while we were in the kitchen messing around. I’ve always loved them. In my list of favorite groups they would have to be #2 behind the Beatles. I’ve always loved their songs…especially with the brass in the background. It always makes me a little sad at the same time too, though. Hearing that “band sound” always reminds me of a lost opportunity to do something I really wanted to do.

I always loved music when I was a kid. I sang, and played guitar and I could “pick up” tunes and play the chords for them and sing just “by ear” I never learned to read music though….still haven’t.

In the seventh grade in school, in the spring time was the time for band tryouts for the next year. I always wanted to be in the band. I’d looked forward to it for several years leading up to that time when I might be able to join. I did all the sign up stuff and tryouts on the instruments and was told that my instrument would be…..a clarinet. A clarinet? That was a surprise, as I’d always supposed I’d be a trumpet guy, and I liked the fact that there were only three buttons on top of a trumpet. The damn clarinet looked like something from outer space with all of those buttons and places to press down.

I gave it a try though, and I finally got some sound out of it. So, we then went on to have some practices. They put a sheet of simple music in front of me, and after going over what it meant a couple of times, we had to try and play. I couldn’t discern heads or tails out of that sheet of music with all of it’s notes and squiggles and dots. Other people didn’t seem to be having as much trouble as I was having, so I figured it was me. I was such a dummy I couldn’t learn to read music. I was deficient.

I followed along for a couple of weeks by ear. If I heard it once or twice through I could replicate the melody pretty closely. I wanted to ask about the music though. I wanted to get somebody to teach me how to understand it…how to “read” the music. I was too embarrassed to ask the band director though. I got increasingly frustrated as we got new music. Finally, a few days before school was out, I went to the office and dropped out of the band.

In hindsight, I wish I had asked for help, and if not I wish I had stuck with it even without asking. I think I could have “faked it” good enough to stay in the band, because once I learn a tune…I don’t forget it. Maybe if I had stayed until band camp the next year, they would have stuck me on the bass drum…cause I was a big guy. Maybe if the band director had just a little more perception about what was going on with me. I supposed it wasn’t meant to be though. At least I got to try. My poor Paula wanted to play in the band at her school in Maryland, but didn’t know what to do to sign up. They had nobody there to even ask them if they wanted to play…no adviser or teacher to guide them in how to sign up for band. She was too shy to ask around and find out.

So as I listen to the brass play in the background on “Saturday in the Park” I wonder what might have been if I’d been a little more assertive, and if someone had been there to tell my wife, “this is how you sign up for band” Maybe we’d have ended up in an orchestra or something!

We lived band careers vicariously through all of our children and our grandchildren, I suppose…..but it would have been nice to have been a “part” of something during my High School years. I never was….

I guess there are advantages to being a “lone wolf” too……. I’m not sure exactly what they are yet though.

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