All City Band

Image provided by Jim Larrison @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/
Image provided by
Jim Larrison @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/

Times have changed so much since my school days. I know that this is normal, of course, but there are some things from the past that, to this day, I don’t think should have been changed. One of these things is cultural and art events for the kids that went beyond the confines of they own schools. The sport events have continued to make it past the individual school districts, but not the other events that play a big part in shaping the lives of children.

I’ve never been athletic. When there was Field Day at my elementary school, I was always one of the last to finish a race and one of the worse softball and kickball players. Nonetheless, I was out there trying. What I did success at was music, which I’m sure you’re slightly aware of by now. If not, just click in the Categories in the sidebar to find other posts about my love of music.

I had taking private flute lessons from Mr. Gary for approximately a year when I hit the sixth grade. Because being a private instructor didn’t pay very much, he was also a substitute music teacher for all of the school in the metropolitan area. Naturally, because he was associated with the school administrations, he knew about all of the cultural and art events. One of these was the All City Band.

This program was divided by groups of ages. There was one for fourth, fifth and six graders; one for junior high kids; and one for high school students.

I was in sixth grade when I tried out for All City Band the first time. To qualify, I had to audition with a solo. Yes, I was a little frightened by this in spite of the fact that I had been in some recitals and had played solos for the church. In those other incidences, I was playing in front of people I already knew. The audition would be strangers.

I chose Beethoven’s piece, Flight of the Bumblebee. It would show how comfortable I was with the fingering of the flute, my ability to not only play fast but with clear tone and, hopefully, show that I could play in front of strangers. The strategy worked because I was in the All City Band that year, playing at the coliseum with other young musicians from all over the city. I auditioned for this program again when I was in eighth grade, earning sixth chair in the flute section.

It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I tried out again for this band. This last time I played a piece by Claude Debussy. The music was serene, which meant I was taking a big risk with the audition. But I felt that I could show more about tempo and feeling, as well as crystal tone with the piece. I earned second chair in the flute section that year.

The conductor for my last year in the program was the chief music director at the University of Denver, Mr. Burns. I experienced pure joy playing under his direction. He was a musician of deep feelings and expression.

As the band played their last piece of the evening at a downtown theater, he definitely demonstrated his love for music. He was all decked out in a tuxedo with the tails and a crisp white ruffled shirt. He looked the part of the great conductor, which, in my opinion, he was. We were playing the music, The Pines of the Appian Way, also know as The Pines of Rome. It starts very quiet. Soon the volume grows and the percussion and the big brass sections join in. As we played, Mr. Burns’ hair got ruffled. Then he unbuttoned his coat. By the time the brass had played a couple of bars, he was taking off the coat and laid it on the platform. By the end of the piece, when all sections are playing their loudest and the timpani drums pounding away, Mr. Burns’ cuff links were off; his sleeves were rolled up and his hair was a disaster. Needless to say, we got a standing ovation.

 

I find it sad that music is rarely offered as a class in the schools anymore. It teaches diligence, cooperation, self-reliance, expansion of the mind, and the list goes on. Are kids learning anything in school that it going to prepare them for the valleys as well as the mountains in life? From what I’ve observed, I’m seeing very little that is going to help them.

 

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8 Replies to “All City Band”

  1. I loved this story, the growing confidence and the passion for the music. I laughed out loud as I read about your conductor’s performance with his clothes. That really does express passion.

    Like

  2. So many good memories for me of my own All City and All State (Florida) bands.
    My daughters also participated in the All County (Maryland) bands, and many of my private flute students did too through the years I lived and taught in Maryland (early 90’s through 2006).

    My daughters’ Dad says that music (and other “non-essential”) classes are being cut in New York State. It’s a short-sighted world, isn’t it? And students of today are suffering for it.

    Thank you for sharing this post and your memories!

    Like

    1. When I saw that you play the flute, I knew that there was a good possibility you’d like reading this one. My son play electric guitar. He hasn’t been in any competitions but that isn’t the point of his love for music anyway.

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    1. To tell you the truth, the members of the band were wondering the same thing. We did find our that Mr. Burns was wearing a t-shirt so the the ruffled shirt could have been a possibility. 😀

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