Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hawthorne High School Band

The Hawthorne High School band practiced a lot. I remembered hearing them play in the morning, just before the Zero period class went into full swing.

I was surprised that on many evenings, during the football games, they did not play very well. The trumpet line made a lot of mistakes. They could not fire off the charge sequence very well, either.

The band director, Mr. "Huge" gave the impression that they were pretty good.

I for one have  always believed that telling kids that they are doing a good job -- when they are not -- is  a cruel disservice.

The Hawthorne High School band did not play well. I am not saying that they never could play well, but all their practicing did not make much of a difference.

The band director did not have a lot of faith in those kids, either. He was always conducting time for the band drum major. The kids playing in the band would not follow his beat, even though they were looking right at him, or them.

One of many examples in which a teacher was way out of his league -- much like myself taking on a long-term sub assignment -- was Mr. "Huge". He pretended to have his act together, and he was quite pretentious. I have  never seen such a failure of leadership in a high school band -- well, actually, I remember that my first band director at Torrance High School had a really difficult time dealing with the upperclassmen, since they had gotten so used to the previous band director who let them get away with everything, I guess.

Anyway, back at Hawthorne. I had hoped to stick around for longer than six weeks -- thank God I did not  -- yet as a way to get involved in the school, to give the hollow impression that I actually wanted to stay and work there, I asked Mr. "Huge" if he would let me be a chaperon for the band. He told me that he would be thrilled, since it would be the first time that a parent, or an adult.

I felt honored, at the time. I should have bit my tongue.

As I have shared many times, I did not get any job at Hawthorne, conned from beginning to end. Still, I felt obligated to go and help out the band that Saturday when I said that I pledged to be there. I showed up at about 11am. I had tried to contact Mr. "Huge", but nothing doing. The school phones were a mess, and I did not have his personal contact info. So, I showed up, feeling terribly obligated that I had to tell him that I was not going to make it.

I was under so much law, bondage, and condemnation in those days. It was just terrible. If I had been walking in more peace, I would not have bothered to show up. Still, there I was watching the bad do a terrible job of getting their equipment onto the truck. All the marimbas, the drumline equipment took a long time getting on the truck. It brought back memories for me, and not the good ones. When I was in the band, the wind instruments were expected to help the drum corps load and unload all of the equipment. There never was a break for us, never. I did not lift one finger to help, so I just stood around feeling awkward, kicking myself for coming.

Finally, we all boarded the bus. Mr. "Huge" was yelling at everyone to hurry up and get on the bus. A big luxurious motorcoach was going to take us to South Orange County. I had not visited that part of the world for some time, so at least there was one thing to be grateful for.

For the next hour, I read over my Bible, yelled at some of the kids in the back of the bus who felt like rough-housing, on the bus. Talk about embarrassing for me, though, when I saw some of the former students whom I had. There I was, a lump on a log, as out of step as could be. What was I doing here? And I got to hear what a great replacement had stepped in. No doubt, the guy who took over was a better teacher, one who actually wanted to be there, who knew what he wanted in this life (?)

When the bus landed, lo and behold we had arrived three hours ahead of schedule. The band spent the greater part of the day just rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing.

During all of the prep, I got to see the drum coach in action. He was a real hothead, no sense of compromise or restraint, did not treat the students well at all. The drum coach in my high school band acted the same way, a really arrogant creep who think that he had a right to lord over everyone else what a great guy he was. The band was all kinds of weird, disorderly, disorganized. They were tricked out in the band uniforms, all black, fairly new, not very impressive. At least they were wearing something presentable.

For the next three hours, there I was standing around waiting for something to happen. I had never felt so turned up within myself, but I had chosen to come along, out of obligation, of course.

I remembered all the time that I had spent loading and unloading equipment, trying to make the most of all that waiting time. The band would rehearse and rehearse, only to play for five to ten minutes. The same lolly-gagging defined the experience that day for me. I was hoping for something better, but it never happened. The whole thing reminded me of my band experience, all right, and nothing that I would want to spend any more time revisiting.

I just watched and watched as the kids practiced and practiced, as the drum coach gave himself carte blanche permission to yell at the students for missing a beat or playing out of turn. I will never forget one of the students, who then burst into tears because the coach had gotten so down on him. I was appalled, and I was having more flash-backs. How many of these drum coaches take off on the students, so full of upset, so full of rage, so full of -- well, I will let loose minds fill in the blank.

Then came the "line-up", the point where the band members, the color guard, and anyone else who plans on playing show up and get ready to take the field. I neglected to mention that Mr. "Huge" had neglected to prep me on just about everything. He was a nervous bag of fear and terror, one who had no idea what he was doing, but loved to "Shush" people like me and anyone else who asked questions in a vain attempt to get some idea of what was going on. He loved to lecture me and other to "act like an adult", the point in my life where I was so fed up with "adults" using fear and worry as a cover for their failure to live life on life's terms.

The band took the field, and they played badly, as usual. There was even a five-second gap in the  middle of the seat, so bad that I could hear one of the judges loudly complain how it ruined everything.

Then came the inexorable hours of sitting in the back benches and listening to the other bands perform, well into the night. All we see, the band and I, were the backsides of all the other performances. I had recalled these moments, too, when I was in the band. We practiced for a long time, then we played for a short time, then we sat and watched other people perform for a long time, as well, for the greater part of the day sitting and doing very little. This was the marching band experience in the past, and this was the marching bad experience then and there.

Long evening, and all I got to do was run around and tell kids to mind their P's and Q's. Some of the players would whistle at the girls as they walked by. Some of them would would throw their food around the bleachers. The same unsightly behavior all over again. What was this madness? Once more I was forced to play parent, and I had no desire to do so.

The day finally, FINALLY, ended. What a long haul. I could not wait to get back home. I could not wait to get away from all of this nonsense. I could not wait to flee from Mr. "Huge" and the irrepressible brats who made up much of the band. I was so glad to realize that I had gotten away from all that marching band rigmarole.

They could have been good players, really, but I did not see anything worth while when I was there.

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