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To The Band Director Who Takes My Place

Trey Reely | September 2019

    Congratulations on being selected as the next band director at Riverview. I thought I would write you a note about some of the kids you will have next year. Often the toughest part of a new position is getting to know your new charges, and I hope this will help speed up the process.
    I know you will love working with our junior high band.
    Stay clear of the band room door before class or you will get knocked over. Braxton, a flute player, and Angel, a trumpet player, will race every day to see who can be the first one to the band room. I would have told them to stop, but I love to see students that eager to get to class. Although they are in different sections, they compete to be the best player. Braxton will often turn around to make silly faces at Angel while he is playing a test, so you will need to watch for this. Angel, for his part, will whisper “don’t mess up” repeatedly while Braxton is playing off a line.
    You will have no such problems with trombone players Diane or Chance. They usually compete to be the last ones to class, so don’t put up with any funny business from them. Chance will be late and then ask to go to the nurse because his tummy (or some other body part) hurts. Diane’s attitude stinks, but part of that is just her personality; I don’t think she likes her own grandmother. Neither one of them knows their slide positions yet, but don’t think less of me. They both signed up for band this year, so there must be something about it they like. I hope they have matured over the summer. I guess you will find out.
    As for medical problems in the band, there is a trumpet player named Tayten who often complains of his brain hurting when asked to try a little harder. With more confidence in himself, he could become a fine player; he is often his own worst enemy.
    We have a good trumpet player named Joey who has a chance to become the first member of his family to go to college. His parents are both on a fixed income but have managed through great sacrifice to buy him a nice trumpet. You will never find his trumpet left in the band room overnight; he takes it home every day and actually practices.
    What would any junior high band be without a little drama? Our third chair clarinet player, Emily, will come in crying almost every day because of some slight she has received from her most recent boyfriend. I keep a box of tissue on my desk just for her. One day early last year, I made the mistake of asking her what happened and found myself in what seemed like an episode of Dr. Phil – or maybe Jerry Springer. I soon learned to look sympathetic while gently telling her to get her instrument out and start warming up. She will be okay if you crack a couple of jokes at the beginning of class.
    You will love the senior high band.
    Tristen is your drum major and band president. You will love having him, but make no mistake, he wants to get your job after he graduates from college. You will often have to rein him in, but that is better than having a leader with no initiative at all.
    Overall, the attitudes in the band are great. However, watch out for a flute player named Lisa. She has a bit of a temper, and will usually say or do one thing a year that will give you a reason to kick her out. However, if you call her parents instead, she will be fine for another six months.
    Make sure you make eye contact with euphonium player Alexander for every important announcement. He rarely knows what is going on, despite all the technological advances of group texting and such. A good old-fashioned phone call to his aunt will usually keep him on track for a week or two. He has a good heart but a scattered mind.
    You will love a third-part-for-life clarinet player named Zach. He is dependable and dedicated even though his dad has tried to get him to quit for years, often saying that he doesn’t need band to graduate.  Another clarinet player, Gissell, will act like she does not like band at all, but deep down inside she really does. If you look fast enough, you will sometimes see her smile.
    As for high school drama, Kenny and Kristy will break up at least once a week, but don’t worry about them, they still do fine in rehearsal, but with a more melancholy demeanor than usual. Happily, they always seem to work things out.
    Our last chair flute player, Jasmine, will never miss a practice. She always said “Hello, Mr. Reely!” when she walked into class and “Good-bye, Mr. Reely!” when she walked out. She struggles with all of her music, but you need kids like her. (Also, her parents fundraise better than anyone else.)
    Alisha often has to bring her two siblings to after-school practices. She comes from a single-parent home and her mother is working. Both are well behaved, and I bet they will join band when their time comes.
    Your first chair saxophonist, Ra­pha­el, and his parents will come to every parent/teacher conference even though the parents do not speak English. The first time I met them, I talked for five minutes before I realized this. It is obvious they want to be there for Raphael; just have Raphael translate.
    Andy and Clint, two quiz bowl members, will typically have the most sophisticated talks on bus trips, ranging from politics to European history. When they are not doing this, they are leading awful renditions of Final Countdown, Bohemian Rhapsody, and 99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall.
    If you hear a classic tune of some type emanating from a practice room, that will probably be our first chair trumpet player, Will. The internet was made for him. He finds all the music he can and practices like crazy. Just make sure he cleans up his band cubbyhole, because his personal library tends to resemble a landfill.
    Jared is your first chair trombone player. His immune system is weak, and he will miss days leading up to a performance but will always come through in the end. You will need to text his mother almost every week to make sure he is okay.
    You will have a percussionist named Cortney who will ask you more questions than you would think possible about anything and everything. I have encouraged her to think of possible answers before asking the first millisecond it enters her brain. She is getting better. So are her two sisters.
    One of our tuba players, Payden, is always late, as were his older brothers. It is a family tradition of sorts, but if you can get him to tell his parents a time that is thirty minutes ahead of the actual time, it will prove effective. He is typically the last student to be picked up after the event as well, so use the same strategy for that if you don’t want to be at the band room all night.
    If you are having a bad day, spend some time around our tuba player Micah. I know he has said “thank you” more than any kid I have ever taught. It doesn’t matter whether it is a private lesson or band trip; he never fails to express thanks. He was raised right.
    I could probably go on forever, but this will get you off to a good start. Many of the students come from difficult socioeconomic circumstances and can seem a little rough around the edges, but once you have them hooked, they have an appreciation and dedication unlike kids you will find anywhere else. If you were looking for a place where you can make a difference in someone’s life, you have found it – and they will make a difference in yours as well.