Music oft hath such a charm to make bad good, and good provoke to harm.
— William Shakespeare, “Measure For Measure”
I love music. It is in the top few of my favourite things in life, after Hawkins Cheezies and the first crocus of spring. Music to me is critical. If I ever get senile, plug me in to some good jazz, feed me Cheezies and I’ll be the model of good behaviour.
I always thought that music was a happy little genetic trait, passed down through generations of music lovers. If so, it skipped our family. It’s not that our kids dislike music. They like to listen to it; they just didn’t like to make it themselves.
Our children’s school administrators recognised the importance of music. Our kids started in year 3 by playing the recorder, then the ukulele and onward until they reached year 6 and band became part of the curriculum for the next four years — four … long … years.
The kids got to choose whatever instrument they wanted. Our eldest and his sister chose the trumpet, the latter declaring that it was the easiest one to learn because there were only three buttons and they were right in front of her face. Two chose the clarinet and one son chose the tuba, which was half of both his weight and height. The last son chose the trombone, saying that he could bop the chap in front of him if he really pulled on it in practice. He managed to really impress his siblings by demonstrating that he could play the B-flat scale on it with his foot.
On occasion, a substitute teacher would appear, and this offered the opportunity for the kids to quietly swap instruments. Son-with-tuba would trade with his buddy for the drums (more noise, less effort) and the rest would take whatever a pal chose to exchange. The resulting cacophony must have been startling for the substitute, who had heard of the remarkable ability of Mr. Froese, the band teacher.
Mr. Froese, who continues to teach to this day, was, and is, a saint. He always managed to coax a decent performance out of any new band by the time the Christmas concert rolled around. Practice, he said, was critical if the student was ever to learn to play, and he would stand beside the school buses as they were loading at the end of a Friday to ensure that the kids took their instruments home over the weekend.
When it came to the weekend, our gang had something more than practice sessions in mind. They had a method of shortening them that almost always worked: they all sat together and played at the same time. The noise was terrific. The cats hated it. In the interest of safety for all, practices were kept short.
One must not curtail creativity, but the only thing that was really creative was their method of getting out of practice. Shakespeare was right — music could provoke good to harm.
Faye Lippitt is the author of “16 Chickens on a Trampoline” and the children’s book, “The Great Caribbean Chicken Caper.”