In search of story

January 27.22: Coping


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.

16 thoughts on “January 27.22: Coping

  1. Not in marching band, but in karate lessons – “Antion, you’re other left.”

    Anyone who has the patience and the kind soul to put up with the sound of beginning musicians, is high on my list.

    Nice tribute, Maureen.

    • Thanks, Dan, and AMEN to being high on the list. God bless the teachers who taught us right from left, or tried to! (I still get confused.)

  2. Wonderful and inspiring for me who just had her first banjo student this fall. Banjo is sometimes as harshly portrayed as a trombone, trust me. hehe

    • Congratulations on your first banjo student! What a great feeling! I think at one time I was told that my grandpa played the banjo, but I’m not sure he ever proved it to me. I’ve heard it’s very hard to play, and I’m guessing it’s the would-be’s that give it a bad name. I think it’s a great sound, and I envy your skill!

  3. Oh, this wonderful tribute to a respected and loved teacher gave me goosebumps. Yes, there are special places for teachers, and Rick sounds like he will be in the front row. I always visualize people being on clouds floating around, moving from group to group to check in. I’m positive I’d like to pass by Rick real close so I could hear the music because I know there will be music. He would be proud of your writing this remembrance. Maureen, you do the English language proud.

    • Thanks, Judy. You’d have liked Rick; he was really not much different from a quilter or a gardener, taking bits and making them into a whole, and planting seeds of quarter notes. A loved teacher, yes. I like your notion of heaven!

  4. A touching tribute to the true heroes of our lives–teachers with passion, wisdom and a sense of humor!

  5. Music teachers are mostly very popular and loved. I remember the farewell concert of the high school music teacher, and afterward our grandson burst into tears! Thanks for coming to my blog!

  6. This is sad news but your tribute keeps him alive, even for people who never met him. My sweetheart used to play the trombone in a navy band and speaks glowingly of the influence his school band director has had on his life. Listening to an ex-trombone player demands similar fortitude from the tender-eared.

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