Last night, I had the opportunity to take part in a world premiere, the debut of a new piece of music called “Lifelong Joy”.

A while back, I had a chance to pick up my tuba and play again after 26 years (you can read about that here) and had a ball. I wasn’t the only tuba playing, I got to “trick out” my instrument, and just enjoy playing again with my old band instructor.

Fast forward a little bit, and we find out this band teacher, Linda, is retiring after 33 years of teaching.  So the high school band director, along with our fine arts boosters, commissioned a composer to create a piece dedicated to her.  When this music is performed again, a dedication will be at the top of the music She had the opportunity to pick who would be playing in this piece, and myself, with about 12 other former music teachers and former students joined the 8th graders and high school band to play this piece last night. It was an honor to be able to do perform with the group, representing my high school, Dunkerton, where Linda got her start. To be able to say that I was one of 106 people who first played this music for an audience? Priceless.  To play in a band with SEVEN tubas? Priceless.  To play in a band with both of my daughters, the three of us in the same band together? Priceless.  To play with the director who got me going down this path? Wow. Priceless.

As I got to thinking about those who’ve influenced those early years of my life, it always comes back to a few select teachers in high school.  I was NOT in the in crowd, far from it, and never was really comfortable with myself until about 20.  I played basketball a couple of years, football a couple of years, ran a year of track, but never felt at home in any of those sports.  I’m not sure coaches quite knew what to do with me simply because I was never the over the top emotional leader they were looking for. I’ve always been quiet and reserved, not usually a sports kind of persona. It always came back to band and vocal music where I truly felt at ease with myself.  Was I good at either? Eh. That’s debatable. I received superior ratings on many things, but was never that good. But I loved both playing and singing. Both gave me that reprieve from life, a place to escape, if only for a few minutes.

Ms. Hulse (the above mentioned Linda), Mrs. Nichols, and Ms. Fosselman (who came my sophomore year after Linda left), all were such huge inspirations in my life, more so now than I ever gave credit in the past.  Mrs. Nichols sang at our wedding and retired in 2007 after 33 years at Dunkerton.  She pushed me to do things, to sing things, that I’d never have done on my own. She dealt with a lot of crap from the bass section, and we loved her for it.   Ms. Fosselman, she put up with a lot of crap from me (as much band instructors did from tuba players).  She did some amazing things with our band, and I will always be thankful for how she pushed us in high school.  With all these teachers, I always felt respected, something I did not always feel from other teachers in high school. That’s stuck with me in my own teaching career. Show a student or athlete respect,  and, even on their worst day, hey will run through walls for you.

It will be different with a new middle school band instructor. Bumping into your old teacher as you are walking down the hallway was a treat, even to just say hi.  However, after 33 years, when my father retired, he told those at his celebration that “I have 33 years worth of reading to catch up on”. I can only imagine what is in store for Mrs. J/Ms. Hulse, but she deserves to get up, have her coffee, and relax.

Thank you, Linda, for allowing me the privilege of playing in your final piece, and for sharing your gift of a”lifelong joy” in music :).