The 12 Days of Christmas
When I think of twelve drummers drumming, all I can imagine are a bunch of 4th grade boys in the band room, on that fateful day when kids choose which instrument they are going to make a career playing.
Even if the band teacher is strict and prepared, he cannot keep the boys (and a couple of girls) from leaning toward those snares. It’s as if gravity has turned sideways.
“So peculiar,” the band teacher says to himself, even after 12 years or so, “these boys (and a couple of girls) have the instruments of the gods set before them. So why the fixation on the drums, those snare drums..?”
If there are stage lights in this practice/meeting room, they are locked on the position of the baritone. The teachers adoring eyes cannot be torn from the instrument’s sheer beauty and magnificence. It has authority and prominence. It is… Awesome.
He slides over and makes physical contact with the baritone. Its importance to the band cannot be overstated.
The real reason, of course, is that the instrument takes such an effort to play. The amount of air and core muscle usage is tremendous. When a sound does come out, it is quite muted. And after only a few minutes, the boys are exhausted from the effort – mouths absorbed in a detachable silver piece three inches in diameter.
The boy’s arms and hands are completely engaged with the (soundless) large motor balancing and the fine motor fingering. The teacher keeps with his mantra: two more hours and it’s middle school honor band period. Two more hours, two more…
“Boys, uh, and girls,” the band teacher announces excitedly, arm around his best pal, ”today is the most important day of your life! Today is a day you shall never forget.” Shall carries weight. ”Today you are choosing a life long companion.”
The teacher then digresses for a minute with analogous rhetoric, referencing a certain former companion named Holly. Prudently, he snaps right back to the mission at hand.
“With instruments like this”, patting the rim of gleaming importance, “you’re opportunities in life are endless,” his voice decrescendos to a whisper.
The boys aren’t buying it. They have long since spied the snares; that dark and dusty corner the only light they see. Time for the kids to go congregate in the direct vicinity of the instrument of their interest. The boys blow by the band teacher and his brother, the baritone and cram in the corner. Where the drums lie.
No matter how many times the teacher relays discretionary messages to parents about how they will eternally regret their boys bringing home the snare drum to practice, worse yet, wanting (parents) to buy one of their own so there is no want of whaling on it, the message falls mostly on deaf ears.
Parents want their kids to “like” them.
The band teacher would like it, at this point in time, if he were the one with deaf ears.
My “spare the rod, spoil the child” mother was/is not one of those. I played the baritone. Ma’s got 20-20 hearing.
I don’t want to pick on your boys (I have girls); but let’s face it, boys like to choose play things they can hit, and that they can seemingly master in minutes. Less than that: seconds. Instantaneously. Stick on canvas. I’m a musician!!
Immediate gratification: that is the real snare.
Let’s be resolute about choosing the right “instruments”, the things that are good and truly sustainable. Let’s take our time this time and be resolved to aim for what we truly need… ”And a Partridge in a Pear Tree!” Peace,
p.s. For some reason, I can only see the boys. I am fully aware girls rush in too.
p.p.s. Some of my drummer friends are some of the best musicians I have ever known.
p.p.p.s. My girls would like me to note Justin Bieber.
p.p.p.p.s. Thanks Ma!!!