Tag Archives: Band

What is On My Mind Today: Pintos, “The Magnificent Seven” and Marching Band

Pinto
The horse I had as a teenager looked much like this one.  Beauty was an Arabian-Pinto. 

Since I am now officially sick of hearing about politics, especially Russian hacking, instead of watching the morning news, I explore YouTube for videos of really beautiful horses.

This morning as I was watching YouTube videos about pinto horses, one video had music playing in the background.  At first the tune did not catch my attention, then, a memory from long, long ago came back.  I knew that tune and I knew it well!

While I was growing up, my parents would farm in Minnesota in the spring, summer and fall months. Then, in the winter they would move our whole family to Arizona. Minnesota winter’s were hard on my dad’s chronic rheumatoid arthritis. So from the time I was in 4th grade until I graduated from high school, I was the new kid in school… twice a year.

My class in Grove City, MN was just over 30 Scandinavian kids. My class at Cholla, High School in Tucson, Arizona was in the hundreds and Scandinavian students were an endangered species.

Now, transferring in and out of schools twice a year was sometimes a challenge, especially in the areas of math, band and choir.  It never failed that whatever math I was learning in Minnesota was never even close to what was being taught in Arizona.  Then, if I wanted to get my music credits, every year the music instructors in Arizona, made me try out to first just make the team, then, I had to perform a solo…vocal and with my clarinet….to determine chair placement.

As a very pale-skinned young white girl who literally just came off the farm, I stuck out like a sore thumb from among my Arizona peers.  I will never forget my first time in the Arizona Junior High School locker room, standing there buck naked waiting to shower after a physical education class, only to hear one of my African-American friends yell, “Girl, you is white, you is white all over!.”

After a confidence boosting experience like that,  imagine having to stand in front of your AAA class talented peers, whose choir performances more often than not brought home the state championship, and sing a solo your first week in a new school.   At least the clarinet playing was only in front of the band instructor.

My first solo for my choir instructor was the, Carol King song, “It’s Too Late.” When I finished, and before I had the chance to start to cry, my teacher hugged me, and asked if I planned to be the next Linda Ronstadt. He then made me a first chair alto.

The band tryout was easier, I usually practiced the song that I was given the night before and sailed through.  I didn’t like playing the high notes, so I generally aimed low….for third chair.  Eventually, the band instructor figured out my game, and switched me to the bass clarinet.  I loved playing bass clarinet.

The band in Grove City was probably no larger than my class, just over 30 students.  My band at Cholla was over one hundred students.  Every year we would march in the largest non-mechanized parade in the United States, the Tuscon Rodeo parade.

Each year we’d have to learn a new marching song with a western theme and go out onto the football field to practice our marching moves. Marching in rows and doing perfect pinwheel turns while in step with a hundred other young people came quite naturally to me.  I should have gone to West Point.

band 1

Our band was  huge.  We had rows and rows of clarinets, flutes, trumpets, trombones, french horns and a whole row of just tubas.  Our drum section was amazing, the head drummer was named Abel Hernandez.  He was in charge of the other drummers and was the best looking.  When those guys pounded all of their drums, it felt like the turf beneath your feet moved.

Our marching uniforms were always the same…blue jeans and a white shirt, tennis shoes and cowboy hat.  I loved this outfit, due to the fact that my mother felt that girls should never wear blue jeans.  So, this pair of blue jeans were the only ones I got all year.

Since, wearing blue jeans was the “in” style in those days, I wore them constantly.   Of course, going bra-less in peasant tops was also the thing in Arizona at that time, however, that did not workout for me.  As it turned out, my white Scandinavian skin was eventually offset by other assets attributed to my ethnicity.

band 2

At one Tucson Rodeo parade our band played the song that I heard this morning.  It is the theme song from the movie, “The Magnificent Seven.”  I will never forget marching next to Barbara Clark, playing my clarinet, having the instrument’s bell fall off, get chipped and be picked up by the gals behind me.  None of us missing a step!

Masterful steppers we were, and we had to be!  We started off with a high “kick step”, then spent the next several miles and hours trying not to step in horse manure from over a thousand horses and step around the dead horse that dropped in the middle of the parade route.

When I listen to that song, even all of these years later, I still can picture Abel thundering on the on his kettle drums, hear all of the guys hammering on their woodblocks, see Tim’s dancing trumpet leading the brass section, and feel the power and magic of all of our woodwinds playing that beautiful melody.

I think it is safe to say that a good time was had by all…well except for the dead horse.

Here is a link to the theme song from the movie “Magnificent Seven” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iteRKvRKFA

 

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