Strike up the band
Old age reminds me of rubbing Vicks on my chest. At first it just stinks but after a while it doesn’t seem so bad. After you reach that point, you might even benefit from the results.
I guess the best part of being over 80 is the ability to look back at something that happened a long time ago and see how it saved a little suffering. At the time, it might have seemed cruel but now I realize it was all for the best.
Back when I was growing up, I often felt there was a place for me in the world of music. I kept trying out musical instruments to see just which one was meant for me.
I guess what inspired me were life stories of famous musicians. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but nearly all of them have been advised to give up music and pursue a career like driving a truck.
As a kid I saw an old movie in which a kid was picked on because he would rather practice music than play baseball. Even his own dad thought he was a sissy. The kid stuck with it and eventually became a star.
Nearly the entire movie dealt with the hardships and suffering of this poor guy. It wasn’t until the end that he finally makes it big. I decided I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
The movie all seemed to mirror my early musical career. His piano teacher used to stuff cotton in her ears while he played. His elementary school music instructor used to rush to the bathroom when he played a solo.
Finally, this kid discovered a clarinet in the corner of an attic. He picked it up, put it to his mouth and, presto, beautiful music poured out.
I figured this was the answer. There were so many musical instruments one of them had to be meant for me. All I had to do was find it. The fact that my fifth-grade music teacher told me that I was the least talented person she’d ever had in 50 years of teaching didn’t seem to bother me.
Every time I saw an instrument, I’d pick it up and attempt to play the thing. The results were always the same: instant headache for anyone within earshot.
Finally I decided my musical career might do better with a little practice. I talked my folks into buying me a clarinet. I joined the junior high band and began the long and rocky road to stardom.
My first instructor was a gentleman by the name of J. Worth Miller. He particularly loved the march “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” After two solid years of practicing that one song I was still so bad that not even my mother could guess what I was playing.
My next instructor was Richard Mowrey. The first technique he tried to teach me was how to keep proper time by tapping my foot. After five minutes of instruction he could see I was beyond hope and told me just to follow everyone else.
Slowly I made my way through the years of junior and senior high school band. I was still attempting to play the clarinet so the teacher seated me furthest from the audience during any public exhibition.
What was even worse was marching band. Not only did my new instructor, John Carlsten, expect me to play the clarinet but he also wanted me to stay in step. It turned out to be a case of either hitting the wrong notes or running over the person in front of me so I faked playing.
During my senior year I achieved my one and only distinction in the field of music. I was named secretary of the band. My teacher determined it was better for everyone if I counted heads and left the playing to others.
That teacher, Mrs. Glenn Miller (her real name, by the way), gave me some advice that I’ve stuck with ever since: “Put your clarinet away, the world has suffered enough.”
It was a cruel way of putting the skids on my musical career but I’ve never regretted it. I only wish I’d have learned how to drive a truck.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.