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Blurred Lines

Trey Reely and Austin Taylor | February 2015

    The concept of “Teaching Across the Curriculum” has been in various states of vogue over the years. Like my questionable fashion sense, I am never really sure when a particular educational fad is really in or out. I suppose it varies with the school district.
    A few years ago my principal wanted me to have the members of my high school band compose written assignments in class to develop their writing skills. After failing to convince him to have the English classes teach a little instrumental music on the side, since it seemed only fair, I left the principal’s office peeved and defiant. I simply did not do it. As I suspected would happen, the principal never even checked up on whether we did, because band was usually of little interest to him. At our school the cross-curricular trend apparently fell out of vogue within one year, because I never heard about it again.
    I have always felt a tinge of guilt, however, about not following through on my principal’s directive. Thus here, many years later, I thought I would offer some ideas that might work if this idea were ever to come back into vogue. Why not have your band students rewrite novels so that they have a musical plot? Here are some possible titles and basic plotlines to get the old juices flowing:

    The Great B-flatsby. Trumpet player Jay Flatsby moonlights as an expert who helps directors teach beginning brass players how to differentiate between 1st and 2nd valves.

    The Sound and the Furious Band Director. Temperamental band director Jason Composition says “one more time” fifty times before finally achieving perfection.

    The Lord of the Finger Rings. A suspicious band director opens a senior’s trumpet case and 50 finger rings fall out.

    War and Pieces of Music on the Floor. Band director Anna Pavlov contracts late-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder after waging a three-year war with students over trash in the bandroom. Pavlov eventually wins, but it is a Pyrrhic victory. The band room is cleaner than ever, but the band never learns its music because Pavlov spends all her time supervising students as they pick up trash from the band room floor.

    1984 Bottles of Beer On the Wall. Band members set a Guinness world record by singing the classically annoying ditty all the way from Arkansas to Florida.

    Charlotte’s Webcam. Documentary chronicles band member Charlotte as she takes a webcam to band rehearsal with her and films her band director having a major temper tantrum.

    The Very Unobservant Caterpillar. Tragedy ensues after the school’s Caterpillar backhoe is used to dig a trench down the 50 yard line of the band practice field.

    The Tapes of Wrath. Band director Tom Joad skips town and heads to California after judges skewer him on contest recordings.

    Lord of the Fries. An overly zealous band parent commandeers the fry vat in the band concession stand and will not let anyone else near it.

    To Kill a Mocking Nerd. A murder mystery where a smart-aleck trumpet player is found dead in a cubby hole. Every band and staff member is a suspect.

    Gone with the Woodwinds. During a heated rehearsal, irate band director Scarlett O’Clara tells all the woodwind players with a worn or chipped reed and no back-up reed to “get up and get out.” None are left.

    Goodnight Bassoon. A sleep-deprived marching band director says goodnight to all his band instruments before heading for home after his fourteenth straight Friday night away from home.

    The Oboe Whisperer. A backwoods oboist talks to even the most troubled and cantankerous oboe reeds and gets them to cooperate and play beautifully.

    Who Moved My Keys? Absent-minded band director constantly leaves his keys all over the bandroom and then blames students for stealing them.

    Weathering Heights. A band director gets stuck atop his marching podium during a flash flood.

    Where The Filed Things Are. Fantasy book where band director Max Factor falls into a file cabinet drawer and is ultimately consumed by paperwork.

    The Girl with the Draggin’ Run-Through. A first-year director fears her first contest because her band drags the tempo of every piece it plays, even on its final run-through.

    Everything Band Guys Know About Band Girls. A young adult version of the iconic bestseller Everything Men Know About Women with only 50 blank pages instead of 100.

    The Hungry Games. A thrilling novel about the fight to the death battle to get to the concession stand first during the third quarter.

    The Old Man and the C. A veteran director has trouble getting his clarinets to tune a Bb on the day of a concert.

    For Whom the Bells Rolled. An overzealous band dad makes a sharp turn with a four-wheeler and sends all the sideline and pit percussion equipment flying off the trailer.

    Botch-22. Director Jon Yossarian has the complex dilemma of either potentially botching 22 difficult measures in a contest piece or changing to a new selection one week before contest.

    War of the Twirls. A battle unlike any other rages between majorettes and their mothers on who should be featured on the 50-yard line.

    If you choose to do anything like this with your students, let me know; it will help soothe my conscience for my past rebelliousness. (I would do it, but I have too much rehearsing to do.)