My dad is a retired band director of a small town. He is now (among other things) a guest columnist for the local newspaper about some of the funnier things he's seen happen as a teacher during the forty years he taught there. He's been getting some good reviews. This story came to me via email last night, and I thought some of you might enjoy it, too.
Two Mysteries Solved
During my first ten years of teaching in Ferndale I split my day between team teaching band and choir with Al Carr at the high school and teaching band at the middle school level.. Ethel Crook also used me as an assistant conductor teaching the orchestra. Officially though, I was the Alexander Junior High School and the Custer Middle School band director. My work at the high school was only for two periods a day. Because I was an itinerant teacher, my schedule called for some driving during the school day and my office was in my briefcase. Once, in the faculty room, a teacher actually asked me what it was that I was selling. She thought I was a salesman that was working hard to sell someone something at the high school because she saw me there so frequently, always with a satchel.
One day after school, as Al and I were conversing, he spoke of a problem that he had and he wanted me to help him with it. "Someone is stealing my directing batons" he said. Now those batons aren't expensive, but when you get one that you like its frustrating not to find it where it belongs when you need it to direct. I told him that I would keep a sharp eye out for anyone messing around with his baton while he was not around. There was no activity relative to the baton to report as days went by. I told him that I too was trying to find the guy who was poking small holes in my conductor scores. It was very frustrating for me and destructive as well, to the music. I asked him to watch out for that vandal.
With a concert approaching, Al was working diligently to get his band ready for the event. His emotions often would get the best of him as he got into a piece of music and he would often just stop the band to tell them how beautiful it sounded, sometimes with tears in his eyes as he spoke. He truly directed from the heart.
But he also could lose his patience and raise his commanding voice and become as scolding as a football coach with a lethargic team. Well, during band rehearsal one day, he lost it. He shouted "No!" and slammed the baton down hard against the music. The baton flipped upwards. He finished the class without the baton and didn't bother to pick it up.
After school, we were again talking near the conductor's podium and I glanced over and saw that someone had punched a small hole in his conductor score. "Hey Al," I said " It looks like the hole puncher vandal has struck your music." "He got my baton too" said Al, "Its gone."
It was then that I noticed the shape of the hole in the music. It was as if it was struck with something pointed but on a flat angle to the paper. "That's strange. Look at the way this hole......." Right then I realized just who was making the holes in my music. It was me. (And Al) When we would tap the stand the tip of the baton would bend down as we struck, make a tidy little hole in the music and then return to its straight position. My mystery was solved!
Al's mystery went on for another week or so, when he again whacked the baton against the music. The baton flipped up and away. Al went on directing without using the baton and was in a bad mood. This time I followed the flight of his baton. When the music stopped I told Al that I had something very important to tell him. He looked at me and saw that I was smiling and because he was in a grouchy mood he told me to wait. I said "Al. Look up!" There in the ceiling of the Ferndale High band room were 12 conductor's batons stuck in the acoustical tile. It was like someone had told him the funniest story he had ever heard. He laughed 'till he had to leave the podium and wipe his eyes. The kids were laughing as well and it was good for them to see Al laughing and see Al's face so red. The students loved the man.
Like Pogo, in the comics once said, "We have seen the enemy and they is us!".