The Uncomfortable Influence of Seventh Grade Music Teachers
Paul Newman played the trombone. In the seventh grade I played the trombone. I'm just saying that it's probably not a coincidence. The universe was obviously trying to tell us something.
I was trying to remember the seventh grade the other day and I was coming up pretty empty. No surprise there, since the seventh grade is pretty much one of the more forgettable grades on the entire flow chart of grades. Grade eight...good. Grade seven...what? Was I in Grade seven? Probably.
I went to W.T. Laing Public School and I was scared s#!%&@$$. I had just switched schools and was itching for a new experience. So when I stepped from the bus I was bursting with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Then I got punched in the face literally five steps from the gaping bus door, and as all of my peers pulled back in horror, I got in a fight, for no apparent reason, on my first day. The boy eventually became my friend, well half-friend, and I survived that first week. The rest of the seventh grade is a blur. I remember the trombone part only because I hated it. Paul Newman Schmooman. Playing the trombone sucked the mustard.
I've spent the rest of my life perfectly happy to have never touched another trombone again. In fact, I've barely gripped the gentle curvings of any instrument since then. The trombone traumatized me. In hindsight, there wasn't going to be much use for a trombone in my life anyway. In fact, I don't know one adult man who doesn't do so professionally, who regularly holds a trombone in their hands. It's just not that popular a thing, you know. Go figure.
The whole enterprise got me to thinking how much of our collective coolness can be set in stone by someone else, and early on. I didn't pick the trombone. I wanted to play the saxophone, or maybe the trumpet...nope, Mr. Almost-ruined-my-life pointed at me and then directed his scrawny finger towards the French Horns, Trombones, and other assorted instruments of geekdom, and my heart sank. From that day forward I was to be f#$%ed. No coolness for me unless I earned it elsewhere. Such damning power in such careless hands. Music teachers are busy planting the seeds of cool long before we can even manage it ourselves. Tyrants.
It's a good thing that I dumped that music business flat the first chance I got, or I would have been doomed to a lifetime of spit valves and band practice. Ugh. Instead, I got busy carving out my own unique brand of loserdom. Road hockey is a much better way to sink social hopes than brass instruments. It's funny now, but the whole enterprise gets you to thinking. How much of your child's future depends on the whims of strangers in the present? A lot I'd wager. It's not like your music teacher can stop you from becoming a CEO someday, but there's a broader influence on your life than we might typically suspect. That's not to say that trombone players are screwed, I mean, look at Paul Newman, but it does suggest that getting stuffed into a remedial reading group, getting cut from the basketball team, or playing the wrong instrument just might push us in a direction that will require awareness, effort and good fortune to swing free of. My destiny could have been picked for me by Mr. future ruiner when he assigned me the trombone. It wasn't, and only because I fought back and declared music class something of a police state that forced me into actions not consistent with my desires to avoid getting beat up after school. If I didn't have hockey and lacrosse etc...to counterbalance the overwhelming loserness of trombonification, well, this would be an entirely different blog. It certainly wouldn't be about my family 'cause I wouldn't have one. No self-respecting girl would have gone near me and my spit valve.