Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Very Good Place to Start

Last week, my school district conducted its beginner-band instrument demonstration. Usually, this is accomplished within the first few days of school, in the fall, for the newly-minted fifth-graders. This year, building adjustments and schedule restrictions within the district made it necessary to conduct the assembly at the tail end of the current school year.  With any luck, and a bit of planning, they may actually remember the assembly when September rolls around.

It was not a bad little session, considering it came hot on the heels of the Fourth Grade Move-Up Day Ice Cream Party. For being so fully sugar-laden, the kids listened fairly well, and responded to many of our “what do you think this is? How do you think this works?” instrument questions quite well. (For the record, I had taught about 50 of them, three years ago, when they were first-graders, and one of my usual activities was to bring in various band and orchestra instruments for an up-close and personal. So quite possibly, we may have been unearthing archaeological evidence of actual learning.  Ooo.)

In the wake of that session, I got to remembering my own instrument demo experience – when I was a fourth-grader and the teachers were offering ME this wonderful opportunity to Be In The Band!! I was already a piano student, three years’ worth of lessons on, and pretty good at the treble AND bass clefs.

I went home afterward and declared, in the presence of my parents, “I would like to play the coronet.”


Well, the presenter had such a serious Boston accent that when he said “cornet”, that’s what these tender ears interpreted it as.

That memory caused me to focus a bit more on clarity in my own presentation, last week. I had to remind myself that at age 9, what think you hear is not always what you’re getting. And at age forty-never-mind, what I think I hear myself say is sometimes not what they heard me say (whether “they” are age 9 or age 79).

But the other thing that struck me particularly strongly – much more this year than in past years, for whatever curious reason – was this: who knows? Amidst all the kids who will start instruments but then bail … and all the kids who will start instruments, play all the way through school and then put them down … and all the kids who will start instruments and play for the rest of their lives and be perfectly happy … there might, MIGHT be some kid who could be the next Branford Marsalis, or whomever. And considering that this year, I will be teaching the majority of the beginner instrument lessons in my district …

Man. The sense of responsibility could knock a fella over.


June 19, 2012 - Posted by | band, education, music, teachers | , , , , , ,


  1. This post gave me uncomfortable flashbacks of being a recorder player in the band. That was awkward.

    Comment by hilary | June 20, 2012 | Reply

    • My apologies. On the other hand, by the time you were wielding a piccolo in the pit, you were off the charts. 🙂 And the general public reads that and mutters, “…huh?”

      Comment by rhammerton1 | June 20, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] in June, as chronicled in this space, I participated in the instrument demonstration that eventually led to our […]

    Pingback by Welcome to Band « Editorial License | October 25, 2012 | Reply

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