Sneaky Band Instructor Steals the Show
By Wm. May
Published: 10/14/19 Topics: Aberdeen Washington, Education, Music, People, Self Improvement Comments: 0
I had some amazing music teachers in my student life.
A year ago, while searching for a high school teacher who could attend our 50th reunion, I found that my high school band instructor, Mr. Hampton Wines, was still alive at 94.
Online, I concluded he lived at the same address. After telephoning his number repeatedly with no answer, I finally knocked on his door and was delighted to find him there and robust as ever.
We spent two hours reliving the past. He had memories of me that I did not remember, which made me feel special and appreciated, but in further stories he remembered every student I could name, and many I no longer remembered. Who was a good musician, who played flat, who was late to rehearsal.
For 50 years I had waited to ask a question. I remembered that the junior high band instructor visited our grade school in an attempt to teach 4th grades to play instruments, such as the heavy brass trumpet I was assigned and was so proud of.
But did I remember correctly that there was another mysterious man who occasionally attended rehearsal (such as it was), and stood at the back listening intently. "Was that you by any chance?" I ventured.
"Of course, it was me, looking for talent to groom." he insisted. "If football coaches can recruit, so can I. I lost many kids to football, but I got most of the good ones."
It must have paid off. Under my relentless questioning, he admitted that in 42 years of annual high school band competitions, his bands always won and, in fact, he admitted, never received anything less than a perfect score.
"Is that true? How is that possible," I asked. He answered with a laugh and the old cliché, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
"Practice. Practice. Practice."
Very distinctly, I remember sitting in the rehearsal room, as he taught, picking apart every error, and begrudgingly giving compliments for every well-done passage. I can hear it now as he picked me out of the 60-member band, stopped the tune and said:
"Mr. May, that is a B and not a B flat. Ok everyone, go again everyone third page, top line."
It seems Mr. Wines followed the Henry Ford method of "No blame. No shame. Just fix it."
My memory of the band's quality has proof. As a sophomore, the band recorded an entire album, when having tape recording technology was rare. Band, stage band, orchestra and all with guest soloist Doc Severson, then the longstanding band leader for the NBC TV network's Tonight Show. A very big deal.
"How did you get him to come to our little out of the way town?" I asked.
"I made telephone calls until, eventually, I got him on the phone and invited him to come. He came. And he was very impressed with your musician classmates."
In addition to the Beatles and other Rock and Roll bands we loved in high school, a novelty group called the "Tijuana Brass" had hit after hit on the radio.
To show how naive the world was in my sophomore year 1967, the name of our school-sanctioned, seven-piece band was "The Marijuana Brass." By my junior year, the principal had caught on and changed it to "The MJB's."
In my Senior year, I dropped out of band to spend full time playing guitar and bass in a Rock and Roll band that traveled every weekend.
"It hurt me when anyone quit band, such a waste," he said. In 42 years, he must have taught thousands of kids. How could he remember me?
Like so many teachers, his example, his influence has never left me. I haven't played music in a very long time, although I now own all the guitars I could not afford as a kid. Music is central to my soul, to how I think, to what I consider beautiful.
And, in other endeavors, I am never sure if I have ever achieved anything, but I am sure I always practice, practice, practice to know the music precisely, play on key, and perform like you mean it. Damn him.
"Practice. Practice. Practice."
And at age 94, he still gets up early to practice the trumpet for an hour before he plays the piano for an hour, and then drives himself to church. He misses his wife, who died a few years ago. His son and daughter are successes in life as are his grandchildren. But, of course they are.
On the day of the reunion, Mr. Wines was not feeling well enough to attend, but he did arrange to have the current high school marching band attend in full uniform. Although he has not been the band instructor for many years, his legacy remains. They were fabulous.
The band knew the music precisely, played on key, and performed like they meant it, as expected.
Author: Wm. May
Blog #: 0789 – 10/14/19
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