I never had the experience of progressing from mediocrity to proficiency on a musical instrument, but my two younger brothers, Kelvin and Scott, were in school bands.
For them, it involved learning to play their respective instruments (Kelvin baritone, Scott trombone) and building confidence; for me it involved enduring hours of atonal sounds that resembled the blood-curdling shrieks of tortured wildebeests.
Eventually, their auditory horrors became awesome harmonies.
Scott Wade: “We won many band reviews all over California and took some big trips. Our arch nemesis was Merced High School. They bested us three years in a row. Finally, in my last year we defeated the Merced ‘Marching Million’ (as we called them). Not to toot my own horn, but I made County and District Honor Band, University of the Pacific Honor Band, and All State Honor Band my Senior Year (’88). It was a blast.”
Kelvin Wade: “I was in the Tolenas Elementary Red Coat Band in fifth and sixth grade. I started off playing trumpet, but stank. We were practicing and the band teacher, Mr. Jackson, said, ‘Someone’s off.’ I knew it was me. He had us all play the song individually. It was humiliating. I was going to quit after that practice, but Mr. Jackson switched me to baritone. I rocked the baritone. Give me a baritone right now and I’ll rock it.”
Others chimed in:
Sharon Kastens Lopez: “I am who I am today because of my years in the Scarlet Brigade. If I could go back in time for just one day I’d go back to any Saturday we had a performance and cherish things like listening to each section warm up, the performance and the awards ceremony. I’d enjoy the ride home and then top it all off with a night of toilet papering!”
Monty Brown: “I was supposed to go to Fairfield High and the Scarlet Brigade was a great band, but Armijo was more progressive and to my liking, so I moved my address to my grandmother’s so I could learn under Ray Lindsey. The Armijo machine was a mix of talented misfits, geeks and serious personalities that oiled its wheels through an era of success and propelled most of us into successful careers in our chosen fields.”
Barbara Umphress-Childers: “Don’t forget the award-winning Armijo Drill Team of the 1950s. We synchronized with the band music and even got to march in front of the horses in parades.”
Terri Haskell Bradley: “Fairfield High band memory: the bus was the locker room. When we traveled, we’d change on the bus – boys and girls at the same time – and didn’t think twice about it. Guess what? It was not a big deal. I can’t imagine that would be OK today, especially in the world of camera phones.”
Kathleen Adams McIntyre: “I was in the Armijo Super Band from ’72 to ’76 and for a couple of those years, the only girl drummer. Much of what I learned then about working together as a team carried through to my professional life. Ray Lindsey would get up in front of us and in his snide way say ‘This is not a democracy, but a dictatorship!’ and then chuckle. We never knew if he was kidding or if he meant business; either way we worked our butts off.”
Wendy Ferrell: “I didn’t know I had any musical talent until my music teacher at Amy Blanc, Ms. Merwin, encouraged me. We played ‘Name That Tune,’ drew pictures to music and tried to keep different beats with rhythm sticks, cymbals and tambourines. Best of all, we did musicals. Ms. Merwin’s encouragement gave me a confidence in myself I had never felt before and still have today.”
Patricia Mason-Wiley: “When I was in the Super band, Ray Lindsey was director. At my first parade as a freshman, he had to tell the judges that I had a birthmark on my upper thigh that looked like a run in my pantyhose. From that day on, every parade judge would walk up to me and run their finger down my birthmark to make sure. These days that wouldn’t be allowed. A little unnerving to say the least!”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]