RIGHT ON TIME

Just thinking about moving to Texas when I was 12, and the old trumpet.

I began in seventh grade, while still living in San Diego. My beginning band class had everyone. The trumpets, trombones, saxophones, clarinets, flutes, percussion in the back. There were like 40 of us I think.

The teacher struggled. The only thing I remember him telling me is (it sounds gross):

TOUNGE you need to TOUNGE- TAH TAH TAH, the end of your lips comes off the back of your top teeth to say TAH. TAH TAH TAH.

I’m kind of an idiot and I just take forever to grasp things sometimes.

Get that through your thick skull, my Dad would say.

Anyway, the instructor would helplessly try to get me to tounge properly, then he’d go on to impotently attempting to guide the saxophone players on how to play their obscenely complicated instruments.

DangI should have picked sax!

I moved from San Diego to San Antonio with a few months to go in seventh grade. My over-sized class of various instruments was replaced by a single class with about 20 young trumpet players. Two simple curved rows of about 10 seats each, trumpets only.

And they were fucking good. 

They did this insane thing where they had a chair system. First chair, second chair, third, on and on. Ranked in order of how good they were? Crazy! Serious business. The old band instructor had the sign that explained about how being early is really being on-time and being on-time is actually more like being late.

I used to imagine how I’d debate that with him. I thought of a scenario where I slid into my chair with my trumpet in hand and a single second to spare. He gives me the eye from his stand, looks at his watch. I look at him-

I’m actually RIGHT ON TIME motherfucker, none of that LATE bullshit or anything. It’s called RIGHT ON TIME.

Nah, the Old Man was right. The schools were better in Texas. On arrival, I was far behind the class. A substitute, of all people, was responsible for getting me to toungue, and not slur all my notes. She took me aside into one of the fancy sound-proof rooms (absent in San Diego) and taught me to properly TAH.

After a week or so in Texas, the Old Man had the class perform a little piece, or series of little exercises to determine the new chair order. He mercifully let me out of it. I remained off to the side in my New Person Chair in the second row. There was a gap of about three or four chairs, and then it was the end of the line- the 17 and 18 Chair guys. They were trouble makers of course. The test was nerve-wracking, even for the bad kids. They dropped their cool as they bumped their way through their little pieces. Charlie was first chair, and he successfully defended his seat with his performance. Damn he was good. His tone was so smooth. It was ridiculous.

I performed for the next test, a few weeks later. It was an epic shuffling. Charlie was dethroned. Charlie was not happy. Lisa was first chair. She failed to disguise her utter ecstasy. Damn, those kids at the top were good! And man, Charlie was not happy about all of it. My test didn’t go that well. I ended up third from the end. Somewhere around there. I wasn’t new anymore.

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