Memorial Day Memories

Posted by Kelly Beeketing on

Below is a delightful band director story written by Robert Storms.  Mr Storms is a composer and many of his works are available on PDF Band Music.  His background includes many years of teaching music in the western Washington area of the United States. This post and many other short stories by Robert Storms are available on Lulu Press.  The title of his book is "School Stories."

     Near the end of the school year, during my first year of teaching in Cle Elum, Washington, my high school band had been asked to play for a Memorial Day ceremony in nearby Roslyn. The graveyard there had a white picket fence all around it and the band was given a place to play inside the fence. The crowd stood around a small platform onto which several dignitaries were ready to go, many of them in uniforms decorated with ways too many medals.
     The band was to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” and our trumpet player was to play “Taps.” We had also been asked to play a march or two before the ceremony started. While getting into position, the crowd pushed us back against the fence. Instead of being free to move around a little, we were kind of pressed in there. We played our marches and waited.
    The ceremony began, and a fellow in a dark blue suit said that we needed to pray together. As he did the honors everyone was very quiet. He included a prayer of remembrance for all the men who died in war. At this point, a man somewhere behind the band (we were facing the podium) started reliving his war experiences. We could not see him, but he was right behind us.
   As the minister was giving the prayer, suddenly we heard voice behind us yelling, “Look out, Tommy, he’s got a machine gun! Get down! Everyone, get down!”
     Of course, our band got down on the ground. We really thought someone behind us had a machine gun and they were going to kill us.  “Hurry, get in the foxhole!” And then we heard, “Oh no, not you Tommy!” Then he started crying.
     Eventually, while lying on the ground, (there were other people in front of us lying on the ground as well), we realized that his was just someone reliving an experience. So, we got up very slowly, feeling rather sheepish. Oh, yeah, we were still on the lookout for a guy with a machine gun, though, just in case.

     They eventually led that gentleman away. 

     Later in the service, our trumpet player was asked to go off into the trees and play the echo for “Taps”. My student Clay walked into the wood and out of sight. An elderly man, wearing a batch of medals on his uniform and his hat at a rakish angle, came forward with his bugle. He struggled to play the melody. Actually, he barely could play the instrument at all. After each shaky phrase the echo came back crystal clear from Clay, who played with a beautiful trumpet tone. It was supposed to be a very reverent moment, but it almost became a comedy act because we all realized the elderly man wasn’t going to be able to hit the high note near the end of the call. As the gentleman approached the note, the students in the band began to laugh, and this was not a very good thing. He missed the high note, even after several tries. Of course, Clay had not trouble with that note and played it beautifully. 

     When it was over, a man came over to us and thanked us deeply for being there and putting up with the unusual situations and promising us that next year things would be much better. It was better. We never received and invitation the next year.

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