The world is a very unfair place for big kids. Besides all of the jokes and teasing, there is one thing that no one ever considers…and that’s what happens when you play music. When you’re big, you want to kind of blend in and there’s no better place to blend in than the marching band. Everyone gets the same uniform and at a distance when they’re marching, a big guy looks just like everyone else. And its nice to be part of something bigger than yourself, if you know what I mean.
As a kid, I decided to join the band and I’m thinking about all the cool instruments I can play. A saxophone is what I want to play because it’s the coolest instrument there is or maybe a trumpet. I would even have considered a clarinet—they’re black—kind of cool and slimming.
When I go in to see the music teacher to pick out an instrument, he takes one look at me and says the magic word, “Tuba.” Now, for those of you that don’t know, the tuba is the biggest instrument there is, other than a piano, and I’m sure that I would have had to play that if they had a piano for the marching band.
So, I ask why. And he says, “You’re the only kid big enough to carry it.” Super.
The “beauty” of the tuba comes in so many ways. Its big and bulky. It needs its own seat on the bus. And tuba music can best be described as monotonous. And a tuba is definitely uncool and not the least bit romantic. (Think about the scene: you’re on a date and you reach over and take a forty pound instrument out of its packing crate, sling it over your shoulder, look seductively into your date’s eyes and play a few oompahs. You’re feeling me, right?)
And you don’t even blend in on the field because you have this big thing sticking over your head that says, hey look at the big kid carrying the big instrument…
The only revenge you get is banging everyone’s knees on the school bus as you drag the hulking instrument toward the back of the bus.
Well, I really did want to be in the band so I took the tuba and learned to play it. For years, I lugged it back and forth to school. I marched with it and during the marching band off-season, I played it in the concert band…which is a lot like the marching band only we added a few wierdos that play things like oboe, bassoon, violin and cello. Luckily, I escaped that part of the music scene. (Probably the only thing less cool in high school for a guy than playing the tuba is playing the violin…)
My senior year in high school rolled around and the band director decided that it was time for a heart to heart talk. After practice one day, he confided in me that he had been a tuba player himself in the old days. I looked at the skinny guy and tried to imagine him wrestling a tuba around voluntarily. Then he dropped the bombshell on me, he had found a piece of music that included a solo part for tuba. I would take center stage at the homecoming and play about 30 seconds of music accompanied by all the other parts of the band. I could see it all…me playing the tuba as the Homecoming Queen walks forward to accept her crown—maybe even looking over at me and giving me a smile. Maybe even…who knows?
Well, my big night came and I was ready. My uniform was crisp, my buttons shiny—the tuba itself was shiny and bright. The band played softly in the background as the Homecoming Court was introduced and the Runners-up announced. I marched out fifteen paces, did a left face and took center stage next to the announcer and began my solo.
Now, you have to understand that at my school, Homecoming Queen is pretty much a popularity contest where the winner is elected by a vote of the school. That being said, the winner that year was Harold Feinleib…who had run a pretty good campaign as the ultimate darkhorse for Homecoming Queen.
So there I was playing my solo as Harold strode confidently forward to accept his crown.
After that night, I laid the tuba down permanently.