She was the most homely looking thing you could have ever imagined. If I had
to describe her today, I would say she is best compared to the character Vicky
Lawrence played in Mama’s Family, yes Mama herself.  Bad wig, floral print
dress, and large bifocals, only difference Mrs. Smoke was an African American
woman and she was my elementary school music teacher. She was probably the most
awesome music teacher ever to walk the planet earth, well maybe not the most
awesome, but I would put money of the fact that she was in the top ten. Mrs.
Smoke was the first person I ever saw play a piano like a mad person and I feel
in love immediately. It was something I had never seen before, coupled with
everything and more that I had heard over the years growing up, in the kitchen
as my mother sang along, in the living via the old mile long thousand pound
record player that had buried itself into the green shag carpeting where me and
my brothers and sisters would dance to Billy Ocean and The Jackson 5,
shocking each other as the static built from our sliding back and forth in our
tube socks. It was great and I wanted desperately to learn how she did it, I
wanted to be able to do that, I wanted to play a musical instrument.


It was only natural then that during my sixth grade year, when Mrs. Smoke
told our class that we would be able to sign up for band that I was one of the
first to place my John Hancock on the list posted on the wall of the music room.
It was exciting; I was excited, the first time I would get a chance to
participate in something I really like about school.  Though my father and all
of his siblings were pretty good athletes, I was never allowed to participate in
team sports at school, which never really bother me that much, even if I had
inherited some pretty good talent from my family. This was different though,
this was something that I could do, this was something that I really wanted to
do, and I was here.


The first day of band consisted of about thirty kids from the sixth grade
class and we were promptly told that half of us would not be there by the time
practices and playing actually took place, which took a little of the air out of
the room as we all looked around trying to pen point who the imposters where. It
was right after those shocking words that we were told we had three weeks to get
our instruments and that was set in stone. Well to make a long story short and
due without the overly emotional drawn out blog post, at the end of three weeks
I was still without an instrument and the last of the hopefuls to return to
class. After three weeks, two days a week of going through breathing exercises,
getting a chance to hold various instruments, and being excited for the first
time about school, it was over. After three weeks of begging and pleading to my
father, I was done. The experience was my first with real music, and I use that
term with love for all forms of music, and my last at really trying to learn to
play music until years later once I was out of school.


It isn’t one of those forever traumatizing experiences that shapes a child’s
future and turns them into a mad man, just a time in my life when I know it
would have benefited me greatly to learn and experience the joy of playing
music. I must admit that when I hear a piece of music that completely moves my
soul now I often think of that time back in elementary school and what if, what
if life had been different for me, when if I had been a little more persistent
like my little sister who ended up with a flute. One can only wander and make
the best of what one has today and hopefully that is what I will do,
hopefully.


JD

 





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