Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The School Year as a New Beginning

A new school year, even if you are not in school, is an opportunity for a new beginning. In some ways, it’s like a second New Year’s Day. You can’t really escape its influence either. Walk into any store nowadays and you will see sales on school supplies, clothes, and all the other stuff kids need to attend school in 2012. As a person blessed with a school-aged child, it’s truly an exciting time.

One of my passions in life is music, both listening and playing. Last night was the first rehearsal for my church orchestra. We call it an orchestra but, aside from the violins, it’s basically a band, so there’s a particular “band-ness” associated with everyone. It’s a feeling and an attitude that I’ve experienced since the fall of 1980 (!) when, in sixth grade, I first picked up my saxophone to learn how to play it. You can watch the “American Pie” movies and chuckle at the “band camp” references but, like every sub-group in the world, there are certain attitudes and outlooks when you are a band member. And you can call us band geeks, band nerds, or whatever, but we really don’t care. The comradeship of bandmanship is a thing unto itself and I love it.

While it was great seeing everyone again for the first time since early June and asking about the summer activities and such, that rehearsal was marked by an absence. One of the most funny, most friendly members of our group passed away in June. Doug was a trombone player—and all band folk can fill in the blanks on that—and he was one of the guys who always made rehearsals fun. He was also in our big band, playing bass trombone and boy did he talk the talk, that special jazz talk spoken only by folks who have been playing jazz for a lifetime. He sat right behind me in the jazz band, his notes and playing helping me keep the beat. 

Many of us played at Doug’s funeral in June. Our director was out of town and, through our small network, we were able to arrive on time, rehearse, and then perform in Doug’s honor. It was a moving time, that morning in June, and we’ve heard nothing but praise from Doug’s family and friends. 

Life, like music, keeps going on and on. We all know that, we all live our days with that intrinsic knowledge. But as rehearsal finished last night and the director specifically addressed Doug’s absence, he opened up the floor for anyone to speak. Sitting across the room from the trombones, I had known that Doug wasn’t there the entire rehearsal. But, at that moment, the memories hit me, moved me, helped me remember just what a precious thing life is.

Every day is not a guarantee to be a good day, but it is a guaranteed day. And this new school year, even if you are not involved in school at all, is a great time to pull out that list of New Year’s resolutions and see where you stand. If you’ve faltered a bit, make a renewed commitment to finish one by 31 December 2012. It can’t hurt, and it will likely make the rest of your year rewarding.

Me? My resolution of one thing still stands. I’m not there yet, but I’m aiming for it, and I’m letting this new school year act as a new beginning for the home stretch of 2012.


Unknown said...

As someone who answered the school bell from first grade through retirement, I felt for many years that my year started when the fall semester began. I even wrote about it in a book once. I was in the band in high school, too. One of life's good experiences. I just sent a birthday card to my director, who's celebrating his 87th birthday.

Scott D. Parker said...

I'm with you, too. I went to school from kindergarten to age 30! Then a few years later, my boy starts school and I'm back in the school year mode. In another week, I'm heading up to Austin for the Longhorn Alumni Band weekend. Haven't been in a dozen years and it's be 25 since I first joined LHB.

David Cranmer said...

I have completely forgotten school but something tells me in three years I'll be right back in that moment.