Yes, the blog has been on a bit of a vacation. More like a hiatus. Perhaps sabbatical would be a better word.
short, the busy festival season started, and unfortunately this fell by
the wayside. Which I hate, because I love writing. But I wanted to
give my full attention to the season, which was full of great
successes, wonderful performances by our participating ensembles and a
few lessons learned and ideas sprung that we are already implementing
for the next season to continue improving what we do. More on that
For now, it's been summer and that means time for a well-earned breather.
decided to take a week-long road trip to Washington, D.C. from Chicago.
Our sons are in their early teens, so we thought they had reached that
age where hiking around museums and monuments all day would be
tolerable, and they might find some lasting meaning in the history
What we didn't take into account was immersion
into heat and humidity both in the mid-90's all week. But we reminded
them that hiking at Boy Scout camp was worse (OK...a lie...) and pressed
onward. In the end, it proved to be a memorable and even educational
week for them.
As I was looking over the photos I had taken,
however, I did begin to see a trend. First, at the Smithsonian American
History Museum where we found:
President Bill Clinton's tenor saxophone...
Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet, Herbie Hancock's keyboard, and a painting of Ella Fitzgerald by Tony Bennett
....and a display of Marine Band memorabilia.
there was Tuesday night, which we spent outdoors...after being in the
heat all day...on the west steps of the Capitol Building in the
sun...for a concert by the United States Air Force Band.
Beautiful setting though. And a program of repertoire that made the continued profuse sweating totally worth it.
next evening we were wrapping up a long day of monument visits, and
happened by the Capitol where the United States Marine Band was setting
up for a concert. My wife and I looked at each other...paused...looked
at our teenage sons, whose eyes and body language clearly screamed, "we need
pizza and a shower...NOW", and thought better of it.
our final day on the way home at the Gettysburg Battlefield, where in
that museum we found a display of Civil War era instruments:
And, not to be outdone, a group in Civil War era uniforms playing them outside:
That's when it hit me. This is how band geeks vacation.
that it's a bad thing. In fact, what it did was serve as a great
reminder to just how much music has permeated our history and our
culture. How important it has been in good times and bad. You realize
that when you see these lovingly preserved instruments displayed next to
the muskets and cannonballs that were also a part of those three
tumultuous days at Gettysburg, and when you hear one of the reenacting
musicians describe to the audience that this is how the soldiers would
regain and retain calm on the battlefield.
It makes you want to
fight to preserve it more, whether it be threatened by a budget cutting
school board or congressperson. You realize how meaningful it is in
One more photo...this one being the end of a 23-year
quest, that ironically was completed by a 10-minute morning walk from
In 1993, when I took the high school band I
was teaching in Iowa to Washington, D.C. one of the things I asked the
bus drivers to do on the way to the Friday Night Parade at Marine
Barracks was to swing by this small, unassuming row house located about
two blocks away from the parade grounds. This was an important location
to American music and band history, and I wanted these kids from small
town Iowa to see what great things can come from humble beginnings. One
of our buses made it down this small street; mine got lost and I never
got to see it. Until last week.
It was in this small house in
1854 that a military bandsman, a trombonist named Antonio Sousa
stationed just two blocks away at Marine Barracks, and his wife welcomed
into their family a son...John Philip.
And the rest, as they say, is history.