The Lesson

Trey Reely | September 2009

    The scene: You are outside a band director’s office. He is giving a lesson to Biff McGardsdell, a soft-spoken sixth-grade trumpet player. All you can hear is the band director’s voice.

“Hey Biff! How’s it going today?”

“Your stomach hurts? Maybe it’ll feel better once we get started. Let’s get the instrument out of the case and get going, okay?”

“You can’t find your mouthpiece? Why don’t you look under the box of Milk Duds . . . Yeah, there it is. Okay, now sit up straight and let’s do a little mouthpiece buzzing. Remember to take a deep breath.”

“That did sound funny, didn’t it? But you didn’t really have to tell me exactly what it sounded like.”

“Let me see that mouthpiece for a minute. What’s that inside there? Can you see it?”

“Dirt? How did that get in there?”

“I wouldn’t suggest you toss it in the air to see which side lands in the ground anymore. Let me clean it out.”

(A couple of minutes later.) “Here you go.”

“Let’s take a look at some lip slurs. Where’s your music?”

“Let’s get it out of your case, then. It looks like you’ve folded that one so many times it’s unreadable. I’ll get you another one.”

(A couple of minutes later.) “Here you go. Play starting there at the top.”
“Well, your dog’s not here to howl when you play it, so just go right ahead.”

(A couple of minutes later.) “Let’s sit up straight and play the C scale I assigned you.”

“You can’t find the scale sheet either? I’ll get you another one.”

(A couple of minutes later.) “Here you go.”

“That wasn’t bad, but remember to play B natural in this scale, not B flat. Let’s sit up straight and try it again.”

“You played the first valve again on the way down. Let me explain it again. I may not have been very clear. See the two notes that I’ve highlighted, circled, put a natural sign in front of, and put a number two over? Those are the ones I’m talking about. Let’s play it again.”

“Very good. Now I want you to kick the third valve slide out on the Ds.”

“Where did your key ring go?”

“I’ll have to order another one. In fact, I’ll order four more. Let’s move on. By the way, how much did you practice this week?”

“I’m sorry about your cat, but don’t you think there was still some time during the week before and after the funeral? Well, let’s look at your method book a little. You do have your book, don’t you? Good. Turn to page three.”

“You’re missing just that one page?”
“I know I told you to spit out your gum the other day in class, but I didn’t mean for you to wrap it up in a page from your book.”

(A couple of minutes later.) “Here you go.”

“Sit up straight and play exercise number 24.”

“Pretty good job, but let’s look at some things we can do better. Did you take a big breath before you started playing?”

“You found out you have asthma? Well, let’s just do the best we can, then.”

“Besides taking as big a breath as you can, I want you to firm the corners of your mouth.”

“When you play like Dizzy Gillespie you can puff out your cheeks, too. Deal?”

“That was much better, thank you. Now I would like you to do it one more time and play very evenly. Remember that I want you to tap your foot as you play.”

“It hurts because you stubbed it on a stump at your cat’s funeral? How about your other foot?”

“I think you can. Let’s use the other foot.”

“That was much, much better. We have just a couple of minutes left, so let’s use our remaining time to pick out a song you want to play.”

“Exercise 133, ‘Rockin’ on the River.’ That’s kind of late in the book. Are you sure?”

“Okay. Let’s hear it.”

“Wow, that was nearly perfect. How come you can play that song and not the ones at the front of the book?”

“They may be boring to you, but they have concepts you need to know.”

“What’s a concept? Well, we’ll talk about that next week. Your mom’s here to pick you up.”

“Hello, Mrs. McGardsdell.”

“Sure, what’s on your mind?”

(Thirty minutes later.) “Well, I better go now, but I hope your nausea, migraines, rheumatism, arthritis, and diabetic problems stabilize as soon as possible.”