Band Memories

I had a real blast from the past this weekend when I tuned into the new MPR Concert Band Stream. I played the bass clarinet all through high school and college. It isn’t a very exciting instrument, but I had a lot of fun playing. I have a few recordings of my college band, but I don’t own many wind band cd’s. Husband was worried it would be all Sousa marches, but even he, that hoity toity cellist, enjoyed the selections we heard. He really liked the emphasis on percussion. We heard lots of Vaughn Williams, Holst, and Percy Grainger pieces for wind band, selections I remember playing,  along with more modern things .  They were very evocative for me, reminding me of emotions associated with the music, and memories of ensemble playing that I hadn’t thought about for a long time.  I do hope there are enough recordings of wind band music to fill up the daily program.

What are your memories of learning an instrument or playing in the band?

82 thoughts on “Band Memories”

  1. Don’t know that I can really claim to have ever learned to play an instrument. Sure, I took piano lessons for five years, but I was never good at it. If I liked a piece of music, I could usually learn to play it, but way too many of the pieces my teachers wanted me to play were of no interest whatsoever.

    I was a pretty miserable piano student. Didn’t practice the assignments I was given nearly as much as I should have, but instead fooled around playing – by ear – whatever tunes popped into my head. Possibly I would have better with different teachers, but only possibly. Also, I think, I might have done better with an instrument that you could take with you. Being dependent on an instrument the size of a piano meant also being alone during practice time. I was a pretty solitary student. No one was interested in my playing, so, whenever I practiced, I did so on my own. Mom wasn’t interested in the music I was tasked with practicing, and at the boarding school, my practice time was after dinner when all of the other kids got to go to the playroom and have fun together before it was time to do homework. Essentially, I was mostly playing for myself.

    Looking back, I know I squandered an opportunity. One of the regrets that didn’t pop into my mind when asked a short while ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. you can begin again. in 5 years you can be 5 years better. pianos fit behind the couch and get pulled out when it’s time. i bought my daughter a garage sale keyboard to tuck under her bed at school and she was elated.
      i have one you can try if you’d like and you can graduate from there to whatever is right for you later. i always remember leo buscaglias mom going back to college to get a degree and someone said “ but your going to be 75 when you graduate” and she said “that’s ok i’m going to be 75 that year anyway”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks tim, I appreciate the offer. I actually own a keyboard, and if I had the slightest ambition to play I could easily do that. The truth is, there are so many other things that I’m much more interested in at this stage of my life.

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    2. Wow, PJ, you’re right – it might have made a huge difference if you’d had a teacher who encouraged your playing by ear. Did that seem to come easy to you? And do your remember what sort of songs you were able to plunk out by ear?

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  2. i started taking guitar lessons in 5th grade, the house of music with doug sparks as my teacher. you start with a rental guitar that is hard on your fingers and if you make it through the initial intro you know you can make it.
    the teacher was supposed to be teaching strictly from the mel bay book one agenda but i talked him into teaching me chords and learned “ i fought the law” by the bobby fuller four as my first song. can’t you just envision the 5th grade me trying to wrap my fingers around the neck and strumming and singing like a real musician. it must have been a hoot
    i got an electric guitar and amp and started my bedroom concerts. my brother started at the same time and while i was visualizing slating the masses in my imagination he was learning classical gas and the house of the rising sun. he was being a musician i was being a rick star so in the summer between 9th and 10th grade when i got a call from 3 guys who wanted me to be the lead singer in their band i said yes. it was like destiny. i had been playing bob dylan, james taylor, joni mitchell, rolling stones and they had a bunch of songs they knew that they wanted me to learn. jethro tull, cream, elton john, were brought out and i sang them first time through. my bass player commented years later that he didn’t know jetho tull and cream could be sung to sound like bob dylan and he had serious misgivings.
    we worked it out and added jim
    hendrix, cat stevens, joe cocker and because of my acoustic leanings we had a set of acoustic music we would play during breaks instead of going outside. i would grab the drummer and have him play piano on some stuff i wrote and i’d try banjo and harmonica and it was good. i kept my guitars out after the band dissolved and when people would ask if i still played i’d say living room concerts. my kids got to hear me. they didn’t think it was odd. just part of the deal and when we sent my youngest daughter off to school with her acoustic guitar and her folk music preference i was 3 for 5 on passing on the music gene.
    now my grandson strums guitar and listens to me sing. he thinks i’m pretty good. you gotta love grandkids. he like peanut butter too. pass on the good stuff.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I was lucky to grow up in a community where it was as equally important how well the band did as it was how the sports teams did. I never practiced enough, but I did well enough at state and regional solo and ensemble competitions. It was sort of a pain hauling that large instrument case around. Flute players had it easy.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. do you still have access to a bass clarinet
      it’s always intrigued me
      bass clarinet and bassoon just look and sound so cool
      violin cell trumpet trombone and sax are next up for me

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  4. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    As a full-fledged Band Nerd I could go on and on with this post. But I won’t. I played the clarinet in band and I loved it. When I graduated from HS I received the John Phillip Sousa Achievement Award, voted by my peers. I was That Nerd.

    While playing was fun, the scene around traveling on the band bus and engaging in competitions was where the action was. There was a very handsome and charming 1st trumpet player who I had such a crush on. He was from a notoriously talented local music family, and was a shirttail relative. This guy had a killer chicken imitation. He would spend our bus travel time entertaining us with this imitation, making chicken head motions in the aisle, clucking, bu-bucking, hissing, and laying pretend eggs, leaving us helpless with laughter.

    Hey, this was in Iowa. Chickens were a thing.

    Despite my crush, we were never more than friends. I saw him about 10 years ago in our home town. He is an old, fat guy now and he does not do the chicken imitation anymore. He spent his life being a Christian Missionary in Israel–now that has to be a hopeless job. He still plays beautifully, but he carries his trumpet around in an old used lady’s purse. I had a band romance with the 2nd trumpet player with whom I am still friends.

    I have a packed day so won’t be on much. See you all tonight,

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Trumpet players always had that attitude.

        But the percussionists! They were the ‘bad boys’ of band. Bunch of show offs. Guys hated them, girls Loved them. 😉

        (Kelly is a percussionist).

        Liked by 5 people

  5. I got piano lessons starting in second grade when my mom realized I’d probably learn more from someone else, besides her. I’d already done some playing around by ear (like my mom and grandma) and I just thought everyone could do that. I was able to bike to my lessons.

    In 6th grade I started the cello, but didn’t stick with it beyond sophomore year – non of my friends were in orchestra, they were all in band, so I just stuck with piano and I never practiced enough for my lessons, either, and quit after ?soph. or junior year.. I did the most playing when I was home from college, tried out some Dave Brubeck and Joni Mitchell.

    By then, tho’ I’d learned to chord on the guitar, and that got me through college parties and California. : ) Oh dear, what was the question…?

    Liked by 1 person

        1. This group just has way too much fun. I’d love to see them live. These are old videos. One of the women in the group has since passed away.

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  6. Oh yes. Started trumpet in 5th grade with Mr. Stroetz. He didn’t seem to have the best personality but he taught us all how to play so there’s that.
    Then middle school was Mr. Nagel. We called him Nazi Nagel. For no apparent reason that I can remember other than the alliteration.
    High school was Mr. Kolpek. My best friend Pete, and I drove that poor man crazy. But he was really a nice man and I have so many fond memories of band.
    Pete and I sat next to each other in band. In high school there was the good band, the ‘Symphonic Winds’ and the lower band, ‘The Concert Band’. We knew we weren’t good enough to be in symphonic winds and had accepted that. Then one day in his office I saw the list on his desk; Pete and I were last chairs in Symphonic winds, but played “Trumpet 1” part (everyone else played “Coronet” parts). I went into hysterics and could only point to the sheet.
    Obviously Mr. Kolpek had no choice; we certainly weren’t good enough to be first chairs in Concert band.

    I’ve let the trumpet go. I can still fake it and I remember some fingerings. Miss it a little.

    tims advice applies to Banjo too; I’ve had one under my bed for years!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I remember when most towns had music stores that sold instruments. I believe many towns in the midwest also had stores for stringed instruments in the early part of the 20th century.

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  8. Parenting presents us with many complicated issues. One of the trickiest for me was deciding how much to pressure my daughter to learn an instrument. I’ve heard many adults say they wish their parents had been more energetic about enforcing practice schedules.

    In the end, we did what we could to encourage our daughter to learn the flute. She resisted. Eventually the flute went into a drawer and was never seen or heard again. I could have put up a better fight. But my daughter is mighty stubborn, and I doubt she would be thanking me now if I’d pushed her harder.

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    1. Both our children craved instruments. The day she got her French Horn in Grrade 5 our daughter marched around the block with it, blowing into it as hard as she could. She saw a violin for the first time when she was in Kindergarten when a friend brought his to our house, and she nearly wrestled him to the floor to get her hands on it. She also plays piano. I am afraid she doesn’t play now, but her life may slow down and she may pick up one of them again.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I miss Mike, our neighbor trombone player in the house just east of us, who moved to a townhouse in Robinsdale (if I remember correctly) a few months ago. Mike would sit in their upstairs spare room, which faces our house, and practice his trombone, and we always enjoyed listening to him. He was a member of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, worked at the Guthrie (as a carpenter building sets), and was a sweet, sweet guy. Miss him.

          Liked by 3 people

  9. I started piano lessons in 4th grade and, with the exception of one year off, took through 12th grade. In that time I had 5 different teachers and only one (4th one) was really good – she got me into classical music (instead of Schaum or Thompson books) big time. Unfortunately I have very small hands (barely reach an octave) which frustrated her big time. She had a hard time finding challenging music the I could “reach”. I bought my own piano in 1981 and continued to play for fun until I reached my 40s. Then for some reason I hardly touched it until my nieces joined choir at Field Community School. In 2002 the choir teacher was looking for a new accompanist and I volunteered my services. That lasted for 16 years and I am now at another Minneapolis middle school doing what I have come to love. Turns out I have somewhat of a gift as an accompanist. And I can “fudge” those intervals that my tiny hands can’t reach without anyone noticing!

    I played clarinet from 5th grade through the end of high school. I must have had some talent there, too as I was first chair as a freshman in junior high and a senior in high school. The best part of band was being in the pep band which played for basketball games. Riding the bus to away games involved home made pizza, potato chips, pop, baby dill pickles, and Red Hots. And we played great songs like Theme from The Stripper, Peter Gunn theme, and Latina (by the late great U of MN band director Frank Bencrisciutto).

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I started in band in grade school, playing the cornet. I also had a private teacher, which gave me a good start. In junior high, the band teacher, with an excess of trumpets, persuaded me to switch to french horn, which I did for a year or so, using one of the school instruments. Then he switched me again into the baritone horns. I played baritone through the rest of junior high and into high school. I have to confess that while I was a reasonably competent band member, I was never committed enough to be properly deemed a musician.
    Band in high school meant that you were in the marching band. There was no alternative and, while I liked band well enough, I hated marching.
    I had had enough marching back in Boy Scouts, which I also quit for much the same reason. Boy Scouts in those days had, and maybe still has, a distinctly paramilitary flavor. Activities at scout camp included obstacle courses, where you were expected to crawl through the mud and under barbed wire, rifle practice, and a great deal of marching in squads. My theory is that, at that time, most of the fathers and scoutmasters were WWII vets and their experience with camping was mostly in the army. Some of them, I think, had fantasies of command.

    Anyway, after my sophomore year spent marching in parades and football games,I quit band. I would have been happy to stay if there had been a concert band that didn’t march but marching was the dealbreaker.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I travelled to Europe in the summer of 1976 with a wind band comprised of band students from all over the US. I remember rehearsing outdoors in the quadrangle/ grassy lawn of the college we were housed at in rural England. I remember we played something by Holst, and how perfect it was to play that music outdoors in rural England.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Most of our High School band directors were from Luther College in Decorah. I participated in the Dorian Band festival there several times. I think Weston Noble directed. That was a fun trip, and we always had pizza at Mabes.

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  13. Started piano when I was five or six and kept that up until junior high. I was reasonably good – but not as good as my brother. I think it was 5th grade when I added flute. The smell of the junior high band room (and thinking about the turtleneck “dickies” we wore under our band jackets) really take me back. By high school I knew I was in the high middle of the flute section pecking order. The top three girls (and they were all girls…our lone male dropped out after 8th grade) were a bit snooty – which I had no time for. I took great delight in knocking them out of 2nd or 3rd chair for a few weeks at a time when “playoffs” worked to my favor. In my mother’s recent move we uncovered the Central High Wind Ensemble album that I played on – my one and only opportunity to be a recording star. 😜

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Count another John Philip Sousa award winner here! And I’m the bandie who never left the band. I played through college and joined a community band when i moved to the Twin Cities in 1974. Forty-five years later, I’m still playing in that band! I play oboe and saxophone and occasionally fill in with the percussion section. Music has been the greatest lifetime avocation I could imagine, and playing in bands makes it all the more rewarding.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. There are a couple of live versions of this song on YouTube, but I chose the studio recording because the live versions have pretty terrible sound. But watching Frank Funaro’s drumming on the live versions is pretty cool.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. I studied piano as a kid. I started lessons when I was about five. And I always loved it but the longer you study the more they want you to practice. By the time I was a senior in high school my piano instructor wanted me to practice an hour and a half to two hours a day. Even at my nerdiest that was too much for me in high school so that’s when I quit lessons. And it’s funny because as much as I love the piano back then I haven’t played it in years even though it’s sitting downstairs in my living room.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I also took a few guitar lessons, just enough to learn the chords to play all of those folk songs I wanted to play back in the late 60s early 70s. And the recorder …I play the recorder too. Unfortunately YA has no interest (or aptitude I have to admit) for playing instruments. We tried piano and she wasn’t even remotely interested. Her piano teacher fired her. And she did try violin – I believe it was second grade – and that was a complete disaster. I just didn’t think that I should push it on her if she wasn’t interested at all.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I noticed while watching the parades this year at State Fair there is a much higher percentage of young women playing percussion than there used to be.
    Years ago percussions in bands was almost always male dominated. I see this change as a good sign.

    Liked by 5 people

  18. YA update. We just got home about a half an hour ago from her surgery. I have to say an awful lot of sitting around and waiting. We got there at 12:30 and surgery wasn’t until about 3:15 It only took about 25 minutes. But then there was more waiting on the back side in the recovery room even though it was clear she was recovered. And then a long long wait at the pharmacy. She got a nerve block so right now she’s not feeling any pain and they loaded her up with various kinds of meds to stay ahead of pain and then meds to counteract the side effects of the pain meds. It seems like a vicious cycle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nice that it is same day surgery.

      Today I had my first big shot of pre-surgery anxiety. Can I get everything done beforehand? Will I recover? Will my leg fall off? AHHHHHH.

      I just hate that. It will pass, but still.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Calm down, Jacque, you’ve got this. I know the anxiety, but I can promise you that this particular surgery has gotten to be so sophisticated and routine, that there’s really nothing to it. They’ll have you up and walking the same day.

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  19. I just remembered (and found) a copy of hilarious sign composed by a friend of mine decades ago. You’ll have to imagine the photo, but it goes like this:

    “Used 5-Piece Drum Set for Sale – for Christmas!”

    He begged, pleaded earnestly, said he would practice. We did it. We bought the drum set for Christmas. He was thrilled. He had lessons. He practiced. It wasn’t too bad, but we learned about mute pads and bought then. His friends came over and admired the set. He showed off, made lots of noise. The friends went home and he was left to practice. Time passed, and you know what happened.

    Now it’s hour turn.”

    … followed by the details and price…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. A colliery is a coal mine in Great Britain. The film is from 1996. Collieries have a tradition of sponsoring employee bands. We found it in the foreign film section of a local video store.

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