When I was a sophomore in high school, my band director arranged for me to audition for the Alton Municipal Band. I had no idea what a big deal this was. It was my first professional gig. I was going to get paid to play the trumpet. I was nervous, and excited, and more than a little intimidated.
I showed up for my first rehearsal and was seated in the section playing third trumpet. I was disappointed at the seating results, but hey, it was a start.
My stand partner was a man named John Mitchell. He was at least 70. I was 16. He came in and unpacked an old, worn cornet.
I was sitting there with a shiny new Bach trumpet, thinking “who is this guy and what am I doing sitting down here next to him?”
As the season began, we started to talk. He was a nice old guy—and if I remember correctly (and I hope I do, in honor of John’s memory) he had served in the military, and then gone on to marry, raise a family, work hard, and live a good life.
I can’t remember where he learned to play the cornet—if it was in school, or in the military. I just remember that during all that time when he was taking care of his family and building a life for them, he set his cornet aside. He probably put it in a closet where it gathered dust for years—even decades. And then one day, when his kids were grown and he had retired, he took it out again. Read the rest of this entry »