Two Mysteries Solved

Posted by Thomas Tucker 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."

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 for the orchestra. Officially, though, I was director of the Alexander Junior High School and the Custer Middle School bands. 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 briefcase was my office. Once, in the faculty room, a teacher asked me what it was that I was selling. She thought I was a salesman working hard to sell someone something at the high school, because she saw me there so frequently and always with a satchel.

One day after school, as Al and I conversed, he recruited me to help him with a problem.

“Someone is stealing my directing batons,” he said. Now, those batons aren't expensive, but when you get one that you like, it’s 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.

As days went by, there was no activity relative to the baton to report. But a mystery of my own had surfaced, and I told Al 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 to the music. I asked him to watch out for that vandal.

With a concert approaching, Al worked 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 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. Instead of tapping the stand with his director’s baton, he whacked it. And later in the rehearsal he shouted, “No!” and swung the baton upwards dramatically, clipping the music stand on the way. The baton flipped out of sight. He finished the class without the baton and didn't bother to look for it.

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. It’s gone.”

It was then that I noticed the shape of the hole in the music. It looked 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—” I suddenly realized just who was making the holes in my music. It was me. (And Al, in his.) 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 stand on the upswing. Again, 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, told me to wait.

I said, “Al, look up!” There in the ceiling of the Ferndale High band room were twelve conductor's baton—I had counted them—stuck in the acoustical tile. It was like someone had told him the funniest story he had ever heard. He laughed until he had to leave the podium and wipe his eyes. The kids laughed too, and it was good for them to see Al laughing and his face so red. The students loved the man.

Like Pogo once said in the comics, “We have met the enemy and they is us!”

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