The baton. The magic wand that transforms a traffic jam of soloists into a country drive of beautiful sound. That is, in a certain hand.
Some years ago, I worked with Rick, an elementary school band director who had that hand. Two days ago, I heard of his death.
I know that I have touched on the subject of music teachers in the past, dear reader, and I bet I do again. There are few things in life we turn to the way we turn to music, and music teachers have had much to do with that.
Have you ever heard the call of the beginning trombonist? Could you take it? Beginning Band is not for the faint of heart or tender-eared. Rick was one of those brave and gifted beings who took the squawks and bleats of those beginners and turned them into real music. By the time those beginners graduated from eighth grade, their sound was good. Really good.
Rick was hilarious, energetic, an entertainer at heart and a teacher in his soul. I think my favorite memory of him was from his summer marching band practices where, out on that hot blacktop, he could be heard in his best martial voice shouting “Your OTHER left! Your OTHER left!” I still laugh.
And every Christmas I think a thank-you to Rick for educating me about Mannheim Steamroller.
If ever anyone lived a life of value, Rick did. May the angels lead you, Rick, and may they lead with the right left.