I’m still sorry, Mr. Johnson…

Yesterday, when I wrote the post about Andy Williams‘ passing, I included the YouTube version of his Born Free. For the remainder of the day, I thought of the tympani score for that piece–a focal point of our SCHS concert band spring concert in 1968. Providing that dramatic drum intro was my responsibility. And, as I recall, I made great noise with equally great uncertainty as to pitch. And for that, Melvin Johnson, I am still sorry, 45 years after the fact.

There are students to whom the mysteries of music are revealed in sweet sequence. I am not one of them. I simply wanted to be in the band. I wanted to be with my friends. Marilyn, Marvin and Steve on cornet. Doris, Linda, Barb and Teresa on flute. Dottie and Bonnie on clarinet. David on tuba. Gary on sax. Glenda and Alan…memory search underway. Jill, David and John on drums. (You had already graduated, Dennis.) And I wanted to be surrounded by something beautiful at a time when I felt so much the opposite.

When Mr. Johnson patiently explained, and re-explained, perfect fifths and other kettle-drum basics, I did try to grasp the concept. But a success? Not so much.

Actually, the best I can say is that I never broke one of the expensive tympani drum heads. And I am not calling you out, Bob and Randy. I’m simply saying, I didn’t. 😉

The power that music programs play in our young lives came back, forte and grandissimo, with a story in yesterday’s Denver Post. Seems the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation has, with some help from local entities, granted $4000 in instruments to one of our area high schools.

I understand budgets are tight. But in my brain, the arts are not extras. They teach math and science. They teach persistence and discipline. They teach us to show up on time, prepared–as best we can be–and put what we’ve learned on the line.

And not to chew gum.

Sorry about that, too. 😉


8 Responses to “I’m still sorry, Mr. Johnson…”

  1. What a great piece Carla. I had forgotten about the tympani head. Your forte was Born Free, mine was Chester Overture. Oh, how I loved the tympani.

    • Bob Monteith and I were discussing the broken tympani heads last time we were together…how frightened two freshman guys were…and how it all worked out just fine. And I REMEMBER CHESTER!

  2. Enjoyed that memory….and glad you didn’t bring out the memories of my brother Dick selling “pizza” desguised as the typanni cover…or “selling” frosty malts out of Marilyn’s oversized shoulder bag. I wasn’t there yet but Marvin has painted a pretty entertaining picture! I felt really sad last week seeing the picture of the Seymour High band RIDING in the Homecoming parade on top of a hay rack…as if RIDING wasn’t bad enough, the size of the band brought sadness to my heart. Many small towns were not as lucky as we were to have great bands…80 members strong…and many are not fortunate now either. Credit to Mr Freidmeyer and Mr Johnson….if we had only appreciated our experience back then!

    • Dick Morrow’s pizza franchise! I had forgotten that. But I do remember how Mr. Johnson’s baton was regularly sent flying toward the trumpet section that year. 😉

  3. I took the opportunity to let Mr. Johnson (I can’t call him Mel) know this summer at Old Settlers how much respect I had for him as a teacher and the good example he set for me. Those band days were some of the best and the trips the most fun.
    I can’t tell you names of songs……except of course, “Won’t you Come Home Bill Bailey”. The whole band experience is some of my fondest school memories.

  4. Enjoyed that!!!!!! And you’re so right about the Fine Arts…..critical to education!!!!! And you KNOW how much I love and respect Mr. Johnson. Thanks, Carla

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