Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I Am A Musician

A few years ago, my sister-in-law Diane asked my Dad to tell his story of being an amateur musician in the late'40's. Here is his reply:

While still in grade school, I expressed an interest in playing an instrument. I liked the sound of the trumpet, so I asked my Mom if I could get one. She checked with the HS band director and he recommended a Holton professional model cornet (very similar, but smaller, and with a sweeter tone) that was for sale at the local music store. I was in 6th grade, probably 11 or 12. so it was 1939 or '40. That horn cost $90.00 then, which, using the multiplier of 10, would be $900 today. Of course my folks couldn't afford that price, but they made arrangements for time payments and somehow got it done anyway.

I took lessons from the HS band teacher and began to watch closely some of the trumpet virtuosos of that era - ala Harry James, and my all time idol, Bobby Hackett. To shorten the story, I was second chair to a Senior (Dear friend John Steffen) as a Freshman and when he graduated that year, I was promoted to solo (first) chair as a Sophomore. I then was privileged to lead the cornet/trumpet section of the HS marching and concert bands and attended many music festivals and other events.

During that time I was also playing with local dance bands just about every Saturday night - not old enough to even have a beer, but as long as you were in the orchestra, you were permitted. I was a paid member of Local 610, AFM.

Of course I went immediately into the Army after graduation. Left my horn at home and more or less put my music ambition on hold. However, on the ship going overseas to Okinawa, I organized a ships orchestra by soliciting other players and we entertained the 3,000 troops on the ship's deck every few days during the 19 day voyage.

Upon arriving in Korea, after stops at Okinawa and Yokohama, Japan, I was again without any musical connection - until, another soldier named "Andy" Anderson, who was a fantastic piano player, heard I could play and asked me to get a horn from Special Services and join him in performing live music at the base Officer's Club. We did this frequently while I also worked in the base PX and had other assignments - once as a bodyguard for my Company Commander on a trip to Seoul.

Then one day I got a pass to go from the Southern port of Pusan, where I was assigned, to visit a former classmate who was stationed at Taegue, in central S. Korea. While there, the director of the 1st Infantry Regimental Band met me at an Enlisted lounge being run by the Red Cross. He asked me to audition - I remember the sheet music he gave me was the song "Mam'selle", which I had never heard before that. I must have done OK, however, because shortly after I got back to Pusan I got orders transferring me to our Engineer Company in Taegue to be detailed to the 1st Inf. Regt. Band. What a deal! From that point on, all I did was play with the band for ceremonies, concerts and other engagements, all over the Southern half of the peninsula. I remember one concert in particular, at a place called Po Hang Dong, where a USO troupe was performing. After playing a standing solo of the ballad "Laura", one of the girls in the troupe came up to me and said "You sound just like Bobby Hackett!" The ultimate compliment.

When I came home I played with dance bands again, locally, but those events grew less frequent as my jobs took me away to school; marriage, children, etc. I ended up donating my horn to the local parochial school because they were desperate for instruments and had no money. I HAVE regretted that on occasion, but never got another horn. Now my Grandson, Riley, is following in my footsteps. Sandy tells me he is pretty good already and getting praises from his instructors. That's great. I once tried to play HIS horn here, but was a total failure - couldn't make any clear notes. It takes a lot of work and one has to develop an embouchure (sp?) or "lip", as we called it for short. I have thought about renting a cornet from Ward-Brodt - but then again, I am 75 and soon will be 76 - what would be the point?

Well, that is pretty much my "story" Diane. I like to think that both John and Tom inherited their love for music from me. It is, I believe, a worthwhile quality and can add greatly to one's enjoyment of life. Thanks for listening!

Love, Jack


If you knew my Dad, you'd realize that he was undoubtedly professional-grade at playing trumpet, like he is at everything else he attempts. I'm ever grateful for the music gene he obviously passed along to me and my siblings.

Thanks, Dad!

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story. Tell your Dad that "the point" would be to play music. He needs nothing beyond that.

Thanks.

Patrick

6/7/10 10:26  

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