Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Kids Say the Darnesest Things About Their Relatives

The kids are on vacation for a while, and I've already taught the few lessons that were scheduled for this week, so any darnedest things that they say will be unheard by me for the time being. Here's one I forgot to post a month ago, but even though it references Thanksgiving, it really pertains to holiday travel in general:

During the last lessons before Thanksgiving, I was asking people how much practice time they had over the break...

ME: So are you driving or flying?
KID: We're flying...and that means I don't get to practice at all! I'm glad we're taking the trip, but I hate that I can't practice.
ME: Well, it's not always easy to fly with a horn, so I guess I can see the point.
KID: But why can't I bring my instrument for Thanksgiving? I bet old people would love to hear me play.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes

This one was having rhythm problems...

ME: Those were eighth notes there, and you played them as quarter notes.
KID: Maybe they got a promotion.

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Terms

One of my high schoolers' solos has a section marked "meno mosso," meaning to slow down the tempo (the literal translation is "less motion"). I always quiz them on the meaning of terms like that--both to further educate them, and because their answers are often funny...

ME: So what does "meno mosso" mean?
KID: A little bit of moss?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Kids Say the Darnedst Things About Church

I mentioned something to a middle schooler about my usual 7:30 AM band call at church on Sundays, and his response was classic: "That's too early! The Lord's not even awake that early."

Monday, December 07, 2015

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About All-Region Band Tryouts

I was congratulating a student of mine who made a band, and he was reviewing his results over the years...

KID: I've never come in sixth before. I wonder what it's like to come in sixth and miss it by one...
OTHER KID (who actually did come in sixth and miss it by one, and was sitting on the floor out of view, but within earshot): It's pretty depressing.
KID: No! I thought you left! You weren't supposed to still be here! I'm so sorry!
ME: Well, that's awkward....

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Churchgoers Say the Darnedest Things

Many of you know that I play saxophone in the worship band at my church. This morning, I was greeted in the hallway by an elderly lady who said,"Good morning, Mr. Hornblower." (I guess she felt that she didn't know me well enough to call me "Horatio.')

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kids Say the Darnedest Things When Describing Large Objects

I was talking to a kid in the band hall recently, when another kid walked by carrying a huge bass clarinet case...

KID: That bass clarinet case is taller than most girls.
ME : It is pretty tall.
KID: It's taller than people!
ME: Girls are people too.
KID: I was just going for a broader spectrum.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Why It Took So Long to Get to Their Lesson

Today's reason: "I had to bring a robot to class."

(It turns out this was true; one of his classmates is too sick to come to school, so he has a robot "attending" class for him, and it was my student's job today to navigate the robot to its next class.)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Kids say the Darnedest Things About Musical Terms (and Furniture)

A middle schooler was self-critiquing a run-through of the All-Region music, and noted that she missed a dynamic change...

KID: I need to do more diminuendo! Some people call it a decrescendo, but I prefer diminuendo.
ME: Eh--they're the same thing... like sofa and couch.
KID: No, it's only couch for me! Sofa reminds me of...a potato.
ME: What?
KID: Yes, a potato.

(I later realized that it should have been "couch" that reminded her of a potato. She acknowledged that phrase, but still said that it was "sofa" that triggered the association.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Kids Say the Darnedst Things About Sightreading

With a student having missed several key signature notes in the first few measures of reading a piece for the first time, I felt the need to restate the importance of checking the key before doing anything else...

ME: What's the first rule of sightreading?
KID: You don't talk about sightreading?
ME: No, that would be Fight Club.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Kids Say the Darnedest Things During the Morning Announcements

The daily ritual at one school started out with this gem: "I pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag...oh, sorry."

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Accidentals

A student didn't carry a sharp through a measure in a recent lesson, and I started to review the procedure with him...

ME: What is the rule for accidentals--what do they do?
KID: They mess you up.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Oldtimers Say the Darnedest Things

Having lunch at a barbecue place today, I'm pretty sure I heard an older guy with a country accent order two "cold slaws." I laughed to myself when I heard that, but after some thought, I realized that "hot slaw" would probably be really nasty...

Friday, September 18, 2015

(College) Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Musical Styles

I haven't had time to post any KSTDT's lately, so here's one if the better recent ones: Someone fairly new to Latin music had an interesting question: "So how do you tell the difference between the samba, the mamba, the mambo, and all that?"

(After explaining the difference between the samba and the mambo, we were able to establish that the mamba is, in fact, a snake.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Years Go By, and Still, We Never Forget

Fourteen years ago today:
I was on a break from teaching, like every Tuesday, and actually spent the time of the attacks in blissful ignorance at the Rockwall Starbucks. I had CD's on in my car instead of the radio, so I totally missed the news on both the way over and the way back. I did hear someone listening to a radio on the patio and they were talking about "the second plane," but it didn't register with me at all. (It amazed me later that nobody walked inside and told us about it.)

When I got back to the school, the flute teacher stopped me in the hallway and asked me if all my students were being pulled out of school (evidently hers were). I said, "No, why?" and she told me what had happened. I spent the rest of the day like everyone else, in shocked, depressed amazement, catching the news when I could. There I was, not even two weeks into being a homeowner, and the world suddenly felt so different. It added to the pall cast over everything when I found out that the sister of a girl I graduated from high school with was on Flight 93, the one that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. (Since it's common on this day to have roll calls of the people who were lost, I'll state her name here, with a link to her foundation: Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas.)

The whole thing felt so surreal; how could anyone hate us that much? The concept of the suicide hijacking was unprecedented as well (before that, hijackers just usually wanted to go to Cuba, and that's why airline personnel were taught to cooperate with them rather than try to subdue them).

I know there are still terrorist plots being hatched, and people capable of carrying them out...but I hope nothing like this ever happens on U.S. soil again. Or anywhere, for that matter.
As I repost this in 2015, we know that the evil in our world is far from being eradicated (indeed, the past few years have seen evil showing its face even more, so it would seem). But I say once more, may we never forget, and may something of this nature never happen here again.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Marathon Band Concert That Doesn't Feel LIke One

I don't do too many long-form posts on this blog these days, but this still feels like the best medium during the Friday night every January when the All-Region bands in my region give their concert. The region where I teach is known for having strong band programs, and the result is a fine evening of music, even though the kids have had less than 24 hours (last night and most of the school day today) to rehearse the music.
And while I've blogged about Region for almost the entire twelve years in which this blog has been in existence, the post has been very similar each year, with only minor edits. But last year was a departure in several areas, and this year even more so. (As always, this post doesn't pretend to be a review of the concert, just whatever random thoughts popped into my head as I was listening.)
  • For those unfamiliar with Region, this event really isn't one concert--it's five mini-concerts. Each band has a 45-minute slot, and the start time for each band is listed in the program; even if a band runs short, the next band won't start till its posted time.

    There is a substantial amount of turnover between bands, but that may well have made room for everyone to attend, though there were seats to spare during each band. (I've never done the math to figure out whether anyone's auditorium could hold a cumulative audience, but I have my doubts, especially if kids stuck around to watch their friends in later bands.)

  • One of the things I've always observed is that the concert runs like clockwork. And for the first time in recent memory--perhaps since the set-time thing began--it wasn't exactly a Swiss train tonight. It appeared that one band didn't come out quite on time, and it made the rest of the concert run about five minutes behind. Not that it really mattered, of course, but it was just different.

  • I make a point every year to state that I prefer the new "wind ensemble" music (whose composers show a strong influence of contemporary film score writing) to the older "band" music (with its smaller sonic palette), but the two things that most resonated with me tonight were older pieces that I had played in high school and/or college. The best conductors and performers can bring new energy to old music, especially that which is an outstanding example of its genre in the first place.

  • Of the new pieces played tonight, the one that most caught my attention was "Ruckus." by a composer listed only as Standridge (let this be my annual appeal to include the usual composer info--at least first names, if not birthdates--in the programs), but a quick Googling suggests that it's this guy. Lots of fun, and there's even a jazz-sounding sax part in there.

  • This yeasr, they returned to the theme of having the top two bands conducted by college directors, and this year's duo (in order of appearance), Robert Carnoghan and Jerry Junkin from UT-Austin, were outstanding. (I also pointed out to one of my students that there was a pronounced difference in the conducting styles of the college directors, who work in a more orchestral style, with less reliance on a steady beat pattern. My quote was, "Some conductors direct beats, but these guys direct style." They're really fun to watch...

  • I always stay for the entire concert, whether or not I have students in the top band. But I would have done so anyway this year, just because of the Wind Ensemble's program. It was all of one piece, but..that piece was Carmina Burana. The entire band transcription. Played by high school students, after a mere day and a half of rehearsal. I was more than blown away. Congrats to Maestro Junkin and the students on an amazing job.

  • I was very happy that the practice of having both parents/siblings and directors/private teachers of the students onstage stand before each group performed. Most of what we private teachers do is very much behind the scenes, but it's cool to be recognized once a year.

  • Let's hear it for well-rounded musicians! Looking through the program, I counted five members of the Region Jazz band I directed back in November, and three of them were on other instruments than they played in that band--my pianist was on percussion tonight, one of my trumpets was on French horn, and one of my trombones was on euphonium. Nice work, folks!

  • And because of that experience conducting the Region Jazz band, tonight gave me an unprecedented feeling of collegiality with the directors on stage. All in all, eleven individuals were chosen to lead honor bands in Region 3 (tonight's five high school clinicians, the four from last week's middle school concert, and the two of us who led the jazz bands in November). It's a privilege to be among that number, especially in the region where I've grown up as a teacher, and also to be able to see the work of all ten of my counterparts this school year--I bet that geography alone prevented anyone else from enjoying that experience.
This concert definitely should be a marathon, but this year, it really didn't feel like it. Maybe it's because I've been to so many, but maybe it's because the music is so good, and being made by at least a few people who are really important to me.

Did you really make it through this whole post? Congrats; you're a marathon winner in much the same way as those of us who stayed for the entire concert!

I'm sure I'll be writing a similar post next year. Stay tuned!