Wednesday, October 15, 2003


(GROSSNESS ALERT: Do not read this while eating! You have been warned...)

I've been playing saxophone for a long time, and teaching it for a little less time than that, and all the while, I never knew for sure if what I'm about to tell you was an urban legend or was actually true. But now I know it can happen: One of my students informed me today that he actually grew a colony of maggots inside his mouthpiece!

I first heard the story from my sixth-grade band director, who told us about a girl in his own high school band who never changed her reed, and when she finally decided to, the mouthpiece was swarming with maggots. That was enough to keep me from ever leaving the reed on when I put the horn away--a practice which continued until a few years ago, when some of my colleagues at Jazz Camp mentioned that they left theirs on most of the time, so that the reed wouldn't have to re-adjust itself to the mouthpiece on every playing. Since I play virtually every day, this made sense to me, and I have done this often without ever growing a single "science fair project."

My student didn't grow the colony on purpose, mind you; he had been in the habit of leaving the mouthpiece on the neck after marching band, to save a little time. Unfortunately, the extra moisture from the neck, in combination with a really humid football game and the horn being in the case from Friday through Sunday made for the perfect habitat for the flies-to-be. Needless to say, he was totally disgusted and may never use that mouthpiece again.

So all this time we had thought maybe this idea was a myth created by band directors to scare students into proper horn maintenance...and now we know it's true. Who woulda thunk it?

(As an epilogue to this, I have to throw in a funny maggot story: I was once taking a class in Denton to get my restaurant-worker's card from the Health Department, and the instructor wanted to make a point about how gross it was when flies landed on your food in a restaurant. His thinking was that, since flies started out life as maggots, they were never really clean animals to begin with. So he asked the class, "Now, who can tell me what flies are before they become flies?" One good-ol'-boy in a gimme cap from a local catfish restaurant raised his hand and said, "Ants?" The whole room busted out laughing, imagining these ants sprouting wings and turning into flies. That became a running joke at the pizza place where I worked: "Hey, close the door; you're letting all the grown-up ants in.")

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "BEWARE HE WILL BE BITTING..."--on a poster advertising a performance of Dracula at one of my high schools. I know I always hate it when I get "bitted" by a vampire...
(Maybe the kid who made that poster also has a job changing the sign at Sonic.)

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