Monday, August 01, 2005

Marching into the school year

We're back from Maine. Lots of lobster. Lots of ice cream. Plenty of mosquito bites. Plenty of getting the daughter to sleep by putting her in the car seat and running the engine for two hours. But we'll get back to that this week. In the meantime, here's this month's column from Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine, just in case you can't find a copy at your local Barnes & Noble:

Our 13-month old daughter is still on the small side. Okay, she’s pretty small. Okay, on the continuum of child sizes, where children are compared to boats, if a normal-sized child is a cabin cruiser, then a small child is a rowboat. Sylvi’s closer to one of those remote controlled yachts that you see in the ponds in Central Park. (And I’m really looking forward to the day the “children-as-boats” metaphor catches on.)

She’s growing, but if she takes after me, it’s going to be a long, slow, climb. So she might need some help. And for growing longer arms, nothing works better than taking up a musical instrument. I started playing the alto saxophone in fourth grade, and at the time, it probably registered at 1/3 of my body weight. The saxophone served a dual purpose – not only did it stretch my arms as I dragged it along the sidewalk, but it kept me anchored to the earth in the event of a stiff breeze.

But playing an instrument also provides children with a wealth of other opportunities. For example, if your child takes up piano, he or she will have the opportunity to complain, years later, that they never learned how to throw a curve ball or drive a stick shift, because they were always busy practicing “Für Elise.”

Once they reach high school, they’ll have the chance to join the marching band (unless, of course, they took up piano). Marching bands provide an unparalleled opportunity to wear the ugliest clothes in human history. My own high school marching band experience lasted well into my freshman year, and our uniforms were frightening even by marching band standards. We sported green polyester pants, bright yellow jackets with enormous gold buttons, and green, velvety cowboy hats with feathers on the side, giving us the effect of a whole squad of Elton Johns playing the theme from “Hogan’s Heroes”. (Go Cavaliers!)

We also lacked the benefit of the band camps you see every summer practicing on the NAU campus, where hundreds of kids shake their sousaphones in precision lines before a conductor poised on a ladder. Our marching band featured a robust collection of around 16 musicians, meaning our formations were limited pretty much to spelling out the letter “I”. This would have been more useful if I had gone to high school in, say, Indianapolis or Iowa City. It made less sense at John F. Kennedy High School in Wheaton, Maryland. We did, once, go so far as to form a big “J”, as though people referred to our school as “John” High School.

Your children can also join the jazz band in high school, affording you the opportunity to spend your weekends trying to find black clothes for them to wear at concerts. My marching band conductor also led the jazz band that first year, and his goal was to make the concerts as short as possible. This led to moments like at our Holiday Concert, when we finished our “last” song, before the applause had finished – before we had even stood to take our bows – he was back on the microphone, saying, “For our first encore…”.

But he left after that year, and was replaced by a much cooler conductor, who made jazz band one of the highlights of the rest of high school. This leads to the final opportunity playing music will provide your children – the opportunity, years later, to regret having given it up.

1 comment:

Carol Davidson said...

Welcome back!