Friday, January 08, 2010

Journal in a Jar- January 8, 2010

What instrument do you play or wish you could play? Why?

When it comes to instruments, I am a jack of all trades but master of nothing. Here is a list of the instruments I have played and how long I've played them:

  • Piano-1990-1998 (lessons)
  • Flute-1994
  • Percussion-1995-2000 (this includes drums, marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, timpany, triples, quads, and awesome instruments like cowbell and slide whistle)
  • Guitar-1999-2000 (tinkering with it more than anything)
  • Bass Guitar-2000-2002 (played in the band Mediocre at Best)
I think that's about it. Piano is the instrument I have played longest, though I am by no means skilled. I do believe that having a strong foundation in piano theory is what allowed me to pick up on other instruments so easily.

By far I am best at playing the mallet instruments like xylophone and marimba. My marimba quartet was, if I'm not much mistaken, the first Winneconne Middle School group to ever get a first place award at the State Solo & Ensemble Competition. In general, middle school students from Winneconne were not allowed to select songs of the difficulty required to go to the state level; however, our quartet must have shown enough promise that an exception was made.

(Above: me and Ryan in 2000 at his graduation, me in my band uniform)

The next year (my freshman year) our quartet again received a first place at the state level, as did the percussion ensemble I partcipated in. My sophomore year was the year everything blew up. Our percussion ensemble received a starred first at the district level, meaning we were selected to perform at the state competition. Our band director did very little (if anything) to help us prepare for district competition. In fact, he only practiced with our group once, perhaps twice at the most. We battled through it as an ensemble and pulled the piece together regardless of his absence. When the scores were posted, a "concerned" parent overheard one of we percussionists stating that the teacher would "probably take all the credit for it anyway."

The next week, the teacher pulled our whole percussion section into his office and screamed at us for about 10 minutes. His face turned bright red, and he admonished us with insults like "you're not as good as you think you are", "you don't even deserve to go to state," "your performance wasn't worth of you going to state", "there is nothing special about you", "you're not the most talented group I've ever had", etc. He told us he would not be permitting our ensemble to perform at the state level. He then screamed that none of us were to refute his accusations, and ordered us from the room.

Anyone who knows me realizes that my musical skill is one of the few things I have ever felt pride in, so having someone tell me (as well as many of my best friends) that we were talentless was a true slap in the face. The only way I felt fit to retaliate was to quit band, along with several other members. The teacher was left with a weakened percussion section, and had to pull band members off of other instruments in a sad attempt to rebuild what he had lost.

That teacher retired several years after I graduated, and never once apologized to me or anyone else in the percussion ensemble. The sad thing is, before all this happened I favored him above many other teachers. Me and my friend Sherry would sometimes do yard work for him, or even just stop by for a chat. I never spoke a single word to him again after I quit band. I hope he realizes that he didn't just "teach a few kids a lesson" by barring us from state competition; he took away the pride we felt for being self-sufficient and capable of our own success. I hope he still thinks about it sometimes.

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