music man

Flip, as a newly minted middle-schooler, chose band as an elective this year. Despite my status as a former band geek (actually, I'm not sure I can say "former" - I still love it), I can say with all forthrightness that I did not influence this decision at all. Really. He made a list of pros and cons for all his elective choices and based his decision on that. So, now we are serenaded by "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie," "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Ode to Joy" on the trumpet, almost every day. (We also hear his two newest hits - the theme from the Wallace and Gromit movies and something that sounds like Land of a Thousand Dances - both of which he figured out himself.)

Two nights ago, we had the opportunity to go hear the Dallas Brass perform at a fundraiser for a local high school. The word went out to all middle school and high school band students, and since we (read "I") didn't want to miss the opportunity, we invested in tickets for the whole family. (I really did want everyone to go, but mostly Flip. Frankly, I wanted to see Flip get really thrilled about something. He can be quite passive in his enthusiasm.)

Dallas Brass is composed of 5 brass players (2 trumpets, a trombone, a horn and a tuba) and 1 percussionist. They tour around the country as well as some international locations, and also do clinics for school bands, which is how we got to see them. The concert spanned American musical history, beginning with some classical music (from Europe, since that's where many of our forefathers originated from) and working its way through patriotic marches, folk songs, jazz, the birth of rock 'n roll, and even some hip-hop. (At least I think that's how that last one would be defined - I don't know; my radio's usually tuned to NPR or this really great independent rock station.)

I was riveted from the first note. I've always loved the big, warm sound of brass, so it wasn't hard for me to get caught up in what was coming from the stage. But when my eyes weren't on the stage, they were on Flip. Come on, I found myself silently pleading with him, feel this! See what you could do! Someone's throwing you a ball, catch it! I didn't care if the trumpet specifically got him; it could be any of the other instruments. Mainly just the music. The first half of the concert came and went. I asked him during the intermission, "So, what do you think?" "Oh, it's pretty good." (Pretty good??? my inner band geek griped, but I restrained her.)

The second half began, and somewhere - I don't even remember where - a big grin spread across his face, his eyes got bigger, and the light went on. It might have been during the 15-minute drum solo, or the jazz piece that all 5 brass players came down into the audience to perform (the trombonist was flinging his slide right down our row, and Miss Bee, who had fallen asleep, didn't even wake up!), or the performance with the other middle school of the theme from "Super Mario Brothers", but his foot started tapping somewhere in there. He was getting it! Oh, I was ecstatic. He stayed with it all the way to the end, which was school-night late (10:00), which - who knows? - might have been the real reason he was grinning so much.

After the concert, the members of the ensemble assembled in the lobby to sign autographs and answer questions. I persuaded Flip to have one of the trumpet players sign his program (there were CDs and posters available for purchase which would have been better to sign, but we had already blown our budget for the evening on the tickets). Flip was nervous to ask him, but I went with him and he was okay. I told him Flip was a new trumpet player this year, and he asked him how that was going with his mouth full of braces, and then told him that when they came off, he'd sound awesome because there'd be nothing standing between his lips and the trumpet mouthpiece. That seemed to satisfy Flip, and on that note, we went out to the car and drove our tired family home.
I wish I could tell you about the hours of dedicated practice that followed this occasion, but I can't. Even as I finish this post (today is 2-15/11, 3 months after I started it - I know; I'm playing catch-up), the trumpet-practicing battle wages on. But now Flip's repertoire has extended to include "Erie Canal", several Christmas carols, and a few scales, major and chromatic. And when we filled out a questionnaire last month for his Primary class at church for the other kids to learn more about him, his response to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was "jazz musician". He could still turn out to be a music man.