Sunday, March 11, 2007

This Teacher's Strings Were Wound A Bit Too Tightly

I read a bizarre story over the weekend of a music teacher in Colorado who let things get a little bit out of hand recently:
A substitute music teacher has been arrested after allegedly whacking a 10-year-old student on the head with a viola bow after telling the class they were "the worst players I've ever heard."

Newspaper and television reports said the trouble began when Carla Shinners, 63, a teacher for more than 30 years in the district, was interrupted by a call on her own cell phone. She allegedly began swearing Feb. 12 at the Creekside Elementary School, where she had earned the nickname "Mrs. Grumpy Lady."

Principal Karen Daly said parents and students complained.

The 10-year-old said Shinners also pulled her hair.
The reason I put this as a main story and not just a little weird news anecdote is because I actually had this happen to me as well. I was much older at the time (a college freshman), but I also faced the wrath of an aging strings teacher who had been used to hearing better playing in his younger days.

When I was in undergrad school (in my pre-jazzer and infant-jazzer days), I got a traditional music education degree, or as we jokingly called it, a BBD (Bachelor of Band Director) degree (and I'll wait for a moment for the laughter to subside at the thought of me being a high school band director). During that time, my course of study included "methods classes," where we learned to play each of the instruments just well enough to be able to teach them.

My first one of these classes was strings class. We had half a semester of each on violin, viola, cello and string bass (the latter of which, incidentally, a principal at one of my schools pronounced as if it were a fish on the morning announcements recently). The instructor, whom I'll call Professor R (which may have been one of his initials, but not necessarily his last one), had evidently been the string instructor back in the day. But as he got older and older (and grumpier and grumpier), and as the side-business he ran got more and more successful, they gradually stripped him of his priorities until, by the time I had his class, he was stuck teaching a room full of mostly trumpet and sax players how to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the violin. (I also heard that he had perfect pitch, so our screechy intonation must have driven him nuts.)

Professor R spent half of every class fuming at us: "HOW can you PLAY so out of TUNE????" Or there was the time when he railed at the people who were late on a snowy day, grumbling that when he was at Juilliard, they had class in two feet of snow (well, Prof, maybe Denton is just a tad less prepared for snow than New York, ya know?). I'll never forget the moment when he made a girl cry because she forgot some of her notes; it turned out that she was a P.E. major who was taking the class "for fun"--which was a huge mistake if he was teaching it. (Incidentally, I never would have ended up in his class had the faculty worn name tags at orientation; Prof. R was our poor excuse for an "advisor" when I was there. When I went to ask him a question about something in the schedule of classes, he said, "Read the book! It's in there!" You can imagine my disdain when he walked into my first day of strings class...)

Anyway, one morning, during my violin phase of the class, I must not have had a great hand position, because he walked up to me and said, "NO, that's not right!" and whacked me on the hand with his bow. Being the timid freshman that I was, I gave him a weird look, but nothing else came of it. If it had been a few years later, I probably would have gone to the dean's office and attempted to hasten his retirement. I used to joke that I should have hit him back, but not really; he certainly wasn't worth losing a degree over.

Incidentally, I was in a music-ed class the next year that had a lot of guest speakers; one day, the other guy who taught strings class came in and spoke to us, and I learned more about teaching strings in one hour from that guy than I did in two entire semesters from Professor R.

Till death--or at least aggravated assault--do us part: A new groom hit his bride with his car during their Vegas honeymoon last weekend. (This story has a personal connection to me as well; when I was working at a pizza place in grad school, one of our cooks came in all stressed-out one day, because her boyfriend had tried to run her over with his car. A few weeks later, she came in and giddily told us that she had gotten married. Putting two and two together, I asked her if her new hubby was the same guy who had tried to run her over a few weeks earlier, and, through a grin of missing teeth--you expected that part, right?--she said that it was.)

One more case of adults not acting like adults: The mother of a 13-year-old boy was charged with driving him to a fight with another kid and cheering him on while he was fighting.

Beware (six days after) the Ideth of March: A restaurant that's about to open near me listed its grand opening date as "March 21th."

1 comment:

Gary P. said...

My Jr High band director used to throw his baton at kids who weren't listening, flinging it end-over-end like you see in those lumberjack axe-throwing contests. He took particular joy when the big round end would pop a kid in the head.

BTW according to Maynard's daughter on the MF Forum, Boss's Cadillac is back on the auction block. You need a new Kevmobile.