Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


All day yesterday, people were talking about not dating themselves, as in not making themselves sound old by referring to outdated movies or music.

A musician, scolded for dating himself, replied, “I’m lucky to be old enough to date myself, and I intend to go right on dating myself!”

I’d love to be able to say that I’m from the class of 1954, that I was born under President Ronald Reagan, that You’re A Grand Old Flag was at the Top of the Hit Parade, and that The Sound of Music was playing in the theaters when I was born.

But alas, it’s not so. Some Like It Hot was the top movie. The Sound of Music opened on Broadway, not at the box office. I prefer the No. 2 song of the year to the No. 1 song. No. 3 was kind of neat. Some of the others in the Top Ten I’ve never even heard.

Gunsmoke was the most-watched television show. Mary Ann Mobley was crowned Miss America. Charlton Heston took the Oscar for Best Actor in Ben-Hur. Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, respectively.

A book I never heard of or read – The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters (about a boy who travels with his father by wagon train to California) – won the Pulitzer for Fiction, and a play I never heard of or saw – “J.B.” by Archibald MacLeish - won the Pulitzer for Drama (a modern-day version of the biblical tale of Job).

When I was six months old, ala Jaimie McPheeters, we moved by station wagon to California. Once out there, my mother didn’t curse God but she certainly cursed her in-laws and the confoundedly constant, beautiful weather of Southern California.

Within two years, we returned to the East Coast, where my mother could once again enjoy the change of seasons. I grew up with the typical school-kid notions of the Sixties, that the world was this global village where everyone shared everything.

Only one teacher ever had the courage to teach the students the realities of life. No reality is more apparent than my birthday present this year – a triangle.

All through high school and college, the schools had a plentiful supply of percussion instruments. The first adult community band I joined, being so old, had every percussion instrument imaginable. The church band I next joined not only had every instrument, but usually of the best quality.

Then I got out into the real musical world.

We joined a band with a professional conductor. Now, my musical friends didn’t have to worry because they already had their personal instruments. As a percussionist, I suddenly found myself having to purchase assorted mallets I’d always taken for granted everywhere else.

Not only that, but I discovered possessing my own triangle was now de rigeur. There’s no such thing as “sharing” or “borrowing” in a professional percussion section. If you don’t have your own triangle, you’re out of luck.

A hard lesson, but one that young students of today should note. This is a do-it-yourself, do-it-for-yourself world. That’s the way the world should be. Self-reliance is the mandate, especially if you’re a percussionist.

You’ve got to make it on your own, on your own steam. People shouldn’t be doing everything for you. Your mother isn’t going to be there to cut your meat for you. Your father isn’t going to be there when you fall down roller-skating and scrape your knee.

The other percussionists aren’t going to lend you their triangles. Get used to it. Grow up.

Get your own triangle.


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