I was never what you’d call “musically talented,” and I’m almost certainly tone deaf. But I still really enjoyed my three years of junior high band.
Well, everything except the itchy, royal blue and yellow polyester band sweaters that I can still feel on my skin, all these years later.
I played percussion, which meant I got to learn the snare drum, bass drum, tympanies, bells (xylophones), triangle, wind chimes, tambourine, maracas, shakers, crash symbols — all of the fun stuff in the of any band.
I liked the variety of learning different instruments. Percussionists were often envied because we got to whisk around in the back, moving from drumsticks to mallets during a single song, while the rest of the musicians were stuck in their chairs.
When I heard our children’s school starts a beginner band program in Grade 3, it brought back so many fond band memories, like smashing the bass drum as hard as I could — in front of the whole school — for the 21-gun salute on Remembrance Day. (Mr. Cormier swore I wouldn’t break it, and he was right.)
It also brought up the embarrassing memory of playing the bass drum in a skirt at the Nova Scotia Kiwanis Music Festival, with one leg hiked up to support the drum, trying to angle myself so I wouldn’t flash my underwear to the audience.
Was our son ready for band? I only started percussion when I was in Grade 7, so eight-years-old felt young to be learning an instrument. But our son has always had natural talent in music — at least, according to his report cards — so he was eager to sign up.
He could have played anything — well, except the trombone, since his reach wasn’t long enough — but my heart warmed when he chose percussion, just like his old mom. It’s a popular choice, so we made sure to rush in his form the very next morning, and he was picked as one of three percussionists,*insert happy cymbal crash.*
He even spent the last week of summer vacation getting a head start at band camp. Of course, as a card-carrying millennial, who has seen American Pie plenty of times, I couldn’t stop cracking “This one time at band camp” jokes and snickering.
The first afternoon after band camp, he and his friend — who’s playing an enormous baritone — decided to play Hot Cross Buns for me. He panicked for a second that he hadn’t learned that song yet, and I had to laugh. “Just bang out the rhythm!” And so he did.
After just one day at band camp, he was holding his drumsticks better than I ever could (“Never point your fingers like that,” he informed me). He’s learning to read music, and it’s been kind of fun to realize I remember the mnemonic devices like Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge for lines and FACE for spaces.
He’ll practice once a week after school with the rest of the band, as well as 20 minutes a day at home. I have no idea if he’ll want to continue past this year or if this will start a lifelong love of playing the drums.
Maybe he’ll even want a drum set for Christmas, although that’s a bit terrifying. I’ll have to make sure Santa brings me a pair of noise-cancelling headphones!