My daughter had a band concert on Monday night, so of course we attended. As I’ve mentioned previously, such events are endurance contests for me, since being utterly surrounded by people, in a hot auditorium, and sitting on a hard wooden bleacher is pretty much a personal vision of hell. Nevertheless, you must go to the concerts. Our parents did it for us, we do it for our children, and they in turn will do it for their children. It is part of the great circle of parental responsibility. It is one of the tiny ways that we tell them we love them, even if they won’t really hear it for another dozen years or so.
The sixth grade band was much improved over their first semester performance. I was surprised to see that only four students had opted out of playing one of the initially required instruments (flute, clarinet, trumpet, and trombone). My daughter was one of them. Yes, the Girl has embraced the tuba with the kind of fervor usually reserved for religious conversions. We do not have to remind her to practice. We do not have to remind her to bring it home on the weekend. She reminds us.
This is a good thing.
So it is with some pride that we watched her play her massive piece of brass tubing last night. She even played a set of variations on a theme as part of a little four-person brass ensemble. She did good.
After the sixth grade band finished, we got to listen to a set from the jazz band, and then the performances by the advanced band (7th and 8th grade). Speaking of improvement, the advanced band had really progressed since the last concert. As they played, my mind wandered and my eyes scanned the performers idly.
It was then that I saw a ghost — sitting in the front row, in the flute section.
She was a young lady who was the spitting image of a good friend of mine, but the spitting image of her when she was in junior high. Not the way she looked in high school. And not the way she looked at our ten year high school reunion. And not the way she looked when she finally succumbed to cancer a few years later. It gave me quite a start.
And then I saw someone else that looked like another friend from junior high, and another. Part of it was the black pants, white shirt and bow tie, which can go a long way to making everyone in the band look alike. Another part of it was the environment: they were all in the band, holding instruments, giving a performance. Most of my friends were musicians and I saw them in that context frequently. But I think the biggest part was how strongly I remember my friends as they were in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades; how strongly my mental image of them was locked at that time. It was quite nostalgic, and made me a bit melancholy at the same time.
Last night we stopped by to see the first rehearsal of the One More Time Around Again Marching Band. My brother and his daughter are both members now, so it’s nice to see them when they come up. Plus it’s nice to hear the band – they’re quite good.
In previous years, we’d taken the kids by to hear the rehearsals, and the kids thought it was pretty cool. But now that the Girl has actually been in a band, she’s completely enthralled. Last night she chose to stay and listen to rehearsal instead of go out for dinner. Now she understands how hard it is to sound that good on an instrument, and then how much harder it is to sound good with a bunch of other people. She came home with stars in her eyes. She’s been bitten by the band bug.
So, in a couple of years, if you see a tall and determined-looking girl marching in a local parade, proudly blasting her sousaphone, it might just be my daughter.