Sunday, June 29, 2008

Seventh heaven ...

... was the epithet generally accepted for where the music department was located at Northern Michigan University in 1955.

Located on the third floor (the uppermost) of one of the original buildings on campus, it was reached only by traversing a final set of steep stairs. If there was an elevator on campus at that time, I don't remember it.

I have a lot of memories of my time there, some of which I'd like to share with you.

Marching band ...

All members of the marching band had to be on campus at least two weeks prior to the start of the school year. Two reasons: 1) To become familiar with the music; 2) To get out onto the football field and begin learning the formations for half-time shows.

[Prior to enrolling at NMU, I had attended a couple of summer 'band camps', the memories of one of which I'd like to share. We had a guest conductor (can't remember his name, which is normal for me) who was heavy on the tummy side and always sat with his rear end kind of half-anchored on a stool.

He was pleasant enough. Perhaps halfway through the camp, however, he stopped the rehearsal and told us a story.

He'd been a guest conductor at a band camp many years before, he said, and had noticed a cornet player who didn't ever seem to have the instrument at his mouth. 'Paul' (that was his first name, still don't remember his last!) thought he'd see if the kid knew anything at all, stopped the rehearsal, and -- pointing his baton at the child -- asked what 'key' the piece was in. The student immediately replied, "The key of C."

Shocked (That was the correct answer!) almost beyond words, Paul asked, "How do you know?" To which the young man replied, "Because there's nothing there."

This is kind of an 'in' joke. I apologize to those of you who know nothing whatsoever about music!]

All right. I was now a music major at NMU, and we were in rehearsal prior to the start of the semester.

About halfway through the rehearsal, in walks this pimply-faced kid. "T Ray" (the conductor) stops the band, turns around and says, "Yes?" To which the PFK asks, "Is this the marching band?" T Ray responds, "Yes, it is. Welcome! What instrument do you play?" PFK answers, "I play the piano."

Folks, I kid you not!

Well, you could have heard a feather drop on the rehearsal room floor after that answer. I mean, there was DEAD silence!

Finally, after many interminable seconds, T Ray said, "Well, if you can figure out how to carry it on your back we'll find a way to fit you in."

PFK exited in extreme mortification, all red-faced. (I mean, what could he have been thinking??)

Mike Nichols and Elaine May ...

We were a pretty tight-knit group.

I can remember many times when we would all gather around either a piano or to the latest recording of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, trying our darndest to sing off key. (That's really hard to do, by the way, when you have perfect or relative pitch, as many of us had!)

How late is 'late'? ...

I think we're all accustomed, now, to waiting in line, waiting at the doctor's/dentist's office, waiting at the grocery/hardware store to check out, waiting at the post office, waiting, waiting, waiting!

When I was an undergraduate at NMU, it was not uncommon for students to walk out of a classroom (after a reasonable period of time waiting for the professor to appear). Classes were scheduled for one hour, normally, but it was 'assumed' that they would be only 50 or so actual minutes in length. (Time had to be allowed to 'commute' between classrooms.)

You didn't want to walk out too soon, or you'd have a negative mark on your record, which could ultimately affect your grade.

There was one music professor, in particular, who was notoriously late for his classes. And, wouldn't you know, he was the head of the department.

One time, someone (wasn't I, altho I'm sure you suspected as much!) asked him, "How much time should we allow for the teacher/professor to appear before we can take it upon ourselves to 'walk out'?"

His answer? Depends on the degree ... Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate, post-,etc. ... the higher the degree the more time must be allowed.


Tammy said...

The kid that wanted to play the piano in the marching band.....roflol. Oh that's pretty bad..... ;)

Goldenrod said...