(Tom Jirik wrote columns in several newspapers in Iowa from the late 1980’s to the mid 1990’s. This column originally appeared in the The Boone Today in the March 16, 1988)
From seventh grade on I was one of those performers. I played a baritone horn in the Mahnomen High School Band. I started out with the rest of the beginners in “C” band. Then as we got better or played louder, (I’m not sure which) we advanced to “B” band.
With our move to “B” band we graduated from “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” to real and real easy John Philip Sousa marches. Once we started playing real music, I realized the glamour instruments like the trumpets, flutes, and trombones played all the good stuff music. The workhorse instruments, like baritones, had the privilege of playing things like “counter-melodies,” and “movements.”
Those of us who played baritone were not impressed. But as we got better and even louder, we baritones occasionally got to play little melodies here and there. That kept us happy and we all stuck it out and eventually made it to “A” band.
Our band director, Mr. Kuhn, tried to teach us by example. He was a proficient performer with most of the instruments in the band, but picking up an instrument to demonstrate was too time-consuming and inconvenient. Instead he would mouth the proper sounds.
Ta. Ta, taas for the trumpets, Pa, pa, paaas for the baritones and wa, was, waaas for the trombones. It was pretty humorous.
Will directing he would leap about on his podium screaming out all of his bizarre noises. Any casual observer would have committed him to a home for the infirm on sight.
Any student who learned how to play an instrument from Mr. Kuhn knows his unorthodox methods worked.
The high school cheerleaders wanted to put together a dance routine to one of our tunes. They came in and set up a tape recorder in front of the band next to the director’s podium.
When the tape was played back, we were amazed at Mr. Kuhn’s stunning mouth performance of “Star’s and Stripes Forever.” It was unfortunate that the recording was ruined by all that muffled band noise in the background.
When there wasn’t snow on the ground, the band practiced marching. We practiced marching with horns and we practiced marching without horns. We practiced bumping into each other while turning military-style corners. Consequently, most of our horns received as many dents on the streets as most cars in town.
The dropping of horns upon the pavement was sternly frowned upon, but happened with surprising frequency.
We marched in performances about three times each year. We would march for the home-town crowd at the Annual Rice Days Festival. This celebration is similar to Pufferbilly Days, except there are no trains, only beer. We were their kids so they had to clap.
We marched on the football field at homecoming. We performed dazzling marching maneuvers, usually in the rain or the snow, while everyone else was at the concession stand or in the bathroom.
Finally we went on the road to another town to march in a civic celebration. Usually on the hottest day of the year, we would get all snazzed up in our flashy maroon and gold wool uniforms, pile into a stuffy school bus, drive for an hour, then march on the sweltering pavement for a mile or two.
Boy, did we have fun. A flute player or a coronet player or two usually succumbed to the heat and fainted during these “death marches,” but as far as I know there were never any fatalities.
Daaa,daa,da,da. Daaa, da, da. Daaa,da,da. Baaa, baaa,ba, da,deet, dot, dow.
For those of you who never had Mr. Kuhn as a band director, that was the tune form “Good Night Ladies, I’m Going to Leave You Now.”