No, I was not a flute player. It was the summer of sixth grade and I was a bona-fide, nerdy country girl transitioning into the throes of junior high school. Coming from a remote elementary school, there were only around fifteen children in my class that would be marching into the awkwardness and the unknown of a new school, trying to fit in to well established cliques. On one of the hottest days of the summer break, my mother got a call from a family friend’s son asking “We need a Bell player REALLY bad and can she come to the band room NOW?”
I had a few years of piano lessons under my belt and taught myself a couple more years after that when my piano teacher was no longer able to teach for personal reasons. I remember feeling intimated and terrified. Although I’m not one to shy away from crowds, you have to realize that I was twelve years old, had zero cool points and only knew one person in that band room. One. He was a guy and several years older. It didn’t count. So, zero.
My mother persuaded, I didn’t have anything better to do so we drove the twenty minutes up the disheveled gravel road to the legendary “Sound of the Wiregrass” band room. At least it was legendary in our small speck of the world anyway. As soon as I walked into the half-moon shaped main room, trophies of all shapes and sizes covered the walls and inaudibly screamed “We are winner winner chicken dinner.” All band members were mustering through the latest score and the band director was getting particularly frustrated with his trumpet section for missing their cue. I would later learn that his son was the first chair trumpet player. Daddy did NOT play. His motto was “perfect practice makes perfect performances.”
Then, a new kid’s worst fear transpired. As the band director turned towards our direction, the entire band room became eerily silent as all eyes focused in our direction. I heard whispers. Who ever likes that? If this scenario were to happen today, I would come alive to the challenge of it all. Time allowing, I would shake everyone’s hand, become Facebook friends with at least 50% of them and leave with ten valid phone numbers programmed into my iPhone. Back then, you might have well just taken a picture of me hiding in the bathroom stall with crimped hair, stone washed knock off jeans, frosted lipstick, teal blue eyeshadow and posted it on Instagram classified as “Public.” Mortified.
I was then warmly greeted and ushered into one of the sectional practice rooms that were positioned along the sides of the building’s main room. “So, I hear you know how to play piano,” the feisty leader said. “Yes sir.” “Well, these are called Bells and they are just like a piano but smaller. Also, these sticks here are what you use to make the sound. There is a certain way you must hit the metal bars so that the sound can resonate correctly. Why don’t you give it a try.”
I did, easy enough, check. I played a simple, short piece of sheet music for him and he then proceeded to give me this motivational speech about how they desperately needed someone to take on this role. Still unsure, I took the Bells and the show score home to practice for a couple of days. He would need me to start band camp the following Monday if I chose to.
Those next few days are honestly a blur since detailed memory tends to fail us after having children. I DO remember being so frustrated that I threw those stupid Mallet sticks across the room in frustration multiple times, dented up my mom’s wall and exercised extreme distaste for showing up that Monday. However, my mother insisted. Looking back, she knew how important it would be to have an organization to identify with to help make the transition to a new school a more pleasant experience.
For the record, I showed up that steamy, summer Monday morning and played the Bells as the only female in an all male drumline. Mom was understandably there at every single sectional practice. In this case, pictures do the extent of my nerdiness justice. I sported a metallic gold cumber bun and bow tie. As luck would have it, a new girl transferred to the school the following year, we ended up becoming the best of friends and she signed on to be the second female Bell player surrounded by pubescent boys.
Furthermore, she and I would try out for cheerleader a year later and completely bomb our audition. We weren’t selected for not being loud enough I assure you. Not everyone is gifted with vocal enthusiasm AND flexible joints I would add. Fortunately, we found our niche as majorettes in the band which curbed our desire for makeup, hairspray and glitz.
I learned a valuable lesson about perseverance over fears and gained a love for band community. Because of being exposed to the love of music and performance at such a young age, I went on to be a leading member in the nationally renown “Sound of the South Marching Band” all four (well, actually four and a half) years of college while attending Troy University on scholarship. I was involved in practically every organization I had the time for because I didn’t want to miss out on anything, but the band was by far my favorite.
I look back now on my high school and college years and what do I have the most fond memories of? Diverse friendships I never would have had if it weren’t for that one time at band camp. In fact, I am still close friends with a former Saxophone player, majorette, dancer, cheerleader and, ironically, a flute player, to list a few. My instructions to my kids: Be nice to everyone, embrace those that aren’t just like you and be friends with others that aren’t cut from the same personality, interests or abilities. Pending everyone’s heart is on the same page, you will all be better people as a result.
Oh, and band nerds are cool. 🙂