#656 – Dick Bernard: A School Band Concert, Memories

Happy Thanksgiving!
Tuesday evening we took the short drive across the Mississippi River to neighboring South St. Paul.
The occasion was the Middle and High School Fall Bands Concert, in which one of our grandkids, 7th grader Ted, was a participant, and even a soloist!
Truth be told, I almost forgot about the event. We were tired and there was a ‘tug’ to stay home when I remembered. But we went.
It was a very good decision.
I love music, but when I was a kid I loved sports more, and we rarely had the opportunity to actually participate in organized instrumental music. We were people who lived in very tiny towns, and band was a rarity. Only once in a great while came a teacher who actually knew music and might have been in a band somewhere, sometime.
Sister Rose in Sykeston had tried valiantly to help me learn the rudiments of piano about 1950 when I was in 5th grade. She was kind; the metronome wasn’t. Piano and I weren’t ‘fit’. I’ll always know where middle C is, however! And what a sharp, a flat, a quarter note, etc., are. She gave the basics.
In 1954, in another country school, Miss Stone, a conservatory trained pianist, tried to coax some piano out of me as a 9th grader. She was kind too. She was a tiny woman, and I marveled at the reach of her fingers. She must’ve been born with extenders!
She did her very best with me. I didn’t. My parents gave up.
In between, out in tiny Ross ND sometime during the year 1953-54 in the midst of the first oil boom – I was in 8th grade, then – there was a teacher who was willing and able to help a few of us learn the rudiments. I got to use a clarinet that year.
Apparently some of the older kids came together well enough so that the town had a small band in a 1954 parade in Williston ND – I have a photo (click to enlarge).

Ross ND Marching Band on Parade in Williston ND, 1954.

But that was it.
I love music still – a long-time short season subscriber till the lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra this fall – but I’m an observer, not a participant.
Tuesday of this week, we sat in a packed auditorium of the South St. Paul High School watching Andrew Peterson, Director of Bands, expertly lead his approximately 200 grade 7 through 12 charges in a program of 18 short pieces, one of which included a drum solo by our 7th grade grandson, Ted!
What a concert for we parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts, friends…!
Towards the end the stage was full to capacity with young musicians, and Mr. Peterson quipped that they were at the point of needing a larger stage.
It was then I started thinking about the film, The Music Man, and the finale, 76 Trombones. Here’s a clip from that movie, and here’s access to many other renditions of 76 Trombones.
The film version of The Music Man came out in 1962, 50 years ago, and I remember seeing it then, probably in Valley City ND, while on leave from the Army in which I was then serving.
Harold Hill, the band leader in The Music Man, had nothing on Andrew Peterson, Director of Bands on Tuesday night. Nor did the to-be band members in fictional River City have anything on those 200 7-12th grade students in South St. Paul.
When Mr. Peterson conducted the finale, John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, I felt like a proud townsperson of River City, and had those kids wanted, they could have led those of us in the audience out into the street like so many pied pipers.
It was a great evening.
Congratulations, all!

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