Monday, February 11, 2008

Little J joins the Band

Mr. Y decided this year to have a grade six band. Little J (chunky, red-head from the Communications class mentioned in an earlier blog) wanted very badly to be in the grade six band. And with his slobbery chin and pinchable cheeks, it’s impossible to say no to Little J. Mr. Y was torn between the progress of the entire group in their pursuit of musical maturity and Little J’s inability to keep tempo for more than a bar (Little J is a percussionist). So, despite the fact that percussionists usually change parts for different songs (one playing the tympani for one song but the snare drum for another), Mr. Y kept giving Little J the Wood Block part.

The wood block part is not very interesting. Sometimes, it requires a strike on the first beat of each bar, and even if there’s a small solo, even if Little J got extremely confused about when to hit his instrument, the wood block could be drowned out enough by the other instruments so that the band could keep their tempo with the rest of the percussion and the conductor, the talented Mr. Y.

After the third song had been introduced to the grade six band and Little J had been appointed to play the wood block part for the third time, finally, Little J approached his teacher. Mr. Y was caught off guard and his heart broke a little as Little J asked him why his parts all seemed to be the same. “I …. think….I’m….noticing…..a ….pattern…,” Little J remarked to Mr. Y. “Why …do….I ….always….play….the…wood….block?” Mr. Y sat Little J down and went over in his head how to break to the boy gently why he’d been assigned such a simple and potentially quiet instrument. “You see, Little J, how the clarinet players in class play different parts? But how in band, the same people always play first clarinet and the same people always play the second clarinet part? Well, the first clarinet players are already very good at the clarinet…” He paused and wrung his hands before going on tactfully, “but the second clarinet players are still just learning how to play the clarinet. That’s why they always play the same part.” Mr. Y drew in his breath as if to gather strength before making the final last link in his logic, but before he could, Little J interrupted him, “I think….I ….know….what….you’re…..saying….” Mr. Y looked at Little J, “You do?”

“Yes,” replied Little J, “You’re…saying…I’m…the…BEST…at…the…Wood Block!”

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