Two weeks ago, I told a lie. And then, to make the first one fit, I told a couple more. They were small, little half-truths, but as everyone mother has told them — a lie is a lie, no matter how small. But, sometimes surprises require a bit of fudging the truth.
Actually, there was a lot of sneakiness in Fulda in the months leading up to the Wood Duck festival. The whole town, plus high school alumni, were planning a surprise for one person. Its a feat that sounds impossible, but when the band director of 36-years, Mike Peterson, announced he was retiring, a few community members hatched a plot to thank Mike for all he has given the community. I had already lied a little bit when Mike called me that Wednesday to see if I could play in the Big Band concert on the Thursday night of Wood Duck.
I told him I had to work but that I would love to play on Friday night’s concert in the park along with the high school if he had an extra bari sax. I didn’t tell him that I had already shifted my schedule around to make sure I could make it on Friday and thankfully he didn’t ask why I requested a bari sax when I’m usually more of a tenor girl.
Before he hung up, I spun a story about how it has been so long since I’d played my saxophone. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I’d even remember how, I told him. Was there any chance I’d be able to practice before the concert?
Never one to discourage practice, Mike assured me the bari sax would be left for me in his basement, and even if there wasn’t anyone home, I was free to go in and grab it. Unfortunately, when I got there, the house was full of people and I had to carry the lie even farther and go on and on about how I was going to have a rough time playing that night and no, I couldn’t stick around, because my parents were waiting on me for supper.
In reality, I had a rehearsal to get to. Over 80 Fulda band alumni were gathering in St. Gabriel’s Church basement rehearse Prince of Denmark’s March, a piece commissioned in Mike’s honor. Walking through the door was like stepping into an all-school reunion. Some of the people I knew but hadn’t seen since I graduated. Others graduated before I was born.
The room was loud as people got acquainted with old classmates and instruments hadn’t been touched for years. We were a rather hodge podge group with music laying on the floor or propped on chairs, but from the moment the conductor gave the first downbeat, all the lessons Mr. Peterson taught us came back, with only a couple missed sharps and early entrances.
I don’t think anyone will forget the look on Mike’s face when he found out that the concert wasn’t over when the high school students left the stage on Friday night.
The pinnacle of the piece was, very suitably, a rendition of Trumpet Voluntary, the well-known piece played by the Fulda Matching band every summer. Many people accomplish great things in their careers and leave lasting impressions behind them, but teachers have the privilege to teach skills that last a lifetime. Reading, writing, math, music — we carry those lessons with us throughout our lives and use them so often, they are easy to take for granted.
I think many of the other musicians will agree it was a pleasure to be able to say thank you for all the music lessons we received during elementary and high school. A thousand little half-truths were told to keep the commissioned piece a surprise, but hopefully Mr. Peterson will agree that they were worth it and forgive us all.