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Your Comments–Trial by Choir

August 9, 2015

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who remembers unfortunate musical moments in school. A surprising number of readers had memories of unaccountably unfeeling music teachers or of being asked not to make noise while pretending to sing or play.

My cousin Alan reported being in kindergarten band and having an almost identical experience to mine. I wonder if it was the same teacher.

My introduction to the reality of my (lack of) musical talent was in kindergarten (Mrs. Bailey’s Kindergarten, if I recall). Mrs. Bailey was going to create a sort of band from all her students. Some could play actual instruments. Others of us without that training were given “rhythm” instruments of various sorts (triangles, cymbals, etc.). The least talented among us were given what were called “rhythm sticks”. That was me. When we began to practice together, I was enthusiastic, banging away with my rhythm sticks to the music’s beat. Then Mrs. Bailey came to me and quietly asked if I would only pretend to hit the sticks together but stop before they actually collided. It was a humiliating moment and still resonates through all the intervening years. To this day, my lack of any ability to play an instrument or sing in tune is painful to me. I have been told not to sing while my wife is in the shower for fear that the water will turn off!

Adonna had this to say:

I tried out for choir and spent the whole semester just moving my mouth with nothing coming out. It wasn’t that I could not sing, I could not sing alto, as I always ended up singing what the soprano’s were singing. Oh well, I didn’t like choir anyway.

Laurie recalls:

I so remember choir and that we had to stand by height in the alto or soprano sections – short people on the sides; tall in the middle. None of us were paying much attention, but at least it wasn’t a lecture.

Thom adds:

Ed, I feel your pain. Our tryouts were diffent in that we were all standing on risers in the cafeteria and the music teacher stood next to you and listened as you sang. If she touched your shoulder you were to step down from the risers and stand next to the wall. When it was over myself and another buddy were standing against the wall. We received the news that we would not be attending choir practice in the future. Wow, what a humiliating experience that was!

Evelyn had a different take on it:

I had a choir teacher at Laney College who could have taught you to sing on pitch. It’s a matter of ear training. If you found the right person, you could sing just fine.

Evelyn, much as I’d love to believe you, I seriously doubt even that teacher could have taught me to sing. Some things are simply beyond me.

Finally, Larry had this to say about my last blog post about the Montgomery bus boycott:

Nothing mattered more to me as a teen than the Civil Rights movement.  I became a member of King’s SCLC before I entered high school, and once the Freedom Marches began in the early 60s I wanted to join them, though the dangers were becoming apparent as well.  My mom would not let me go to Alabama (which seemed safer than the Mississippi that murdered Medgar Evers), but my opinions were evident enough that I got called a “nigger lover” more than once at that later moment.  Certainly the Parks strike was not immediately apparent in its significance to a 10-year-old, but I also remember my despair (completely wrong, as it turned out) at the immediate first reaction to the Kennedy assassination that Lyndon Johnson was now president and would lose even the minimal progress made before 1963.  So I appreciate your raising these times and issues, also raised by the Harper Lee “draft” that just came out as her “rediscovered book.”

Thanks, as always, for your comments. A new story will post on Wednesday.