Monday, September 2, 2013

In 1980, a Great Man of Music told me "You think you deserve a medal?"

It was this Great Man of Music:

If aging memory is correct, Mr. Reed came to Midwestern State University (in Wichita Falls TX) in the spring of 1980 to guest-conduct the MSU Symphonic Band.

I was one of the non-music majors in the band (part of the percussion section).

During a Sunday afternoon rehearsal at Akin Auditorium, the band was playing a number to be included in an upcoming concert.

I made a mistake; Mr. Reed pointed it out in front of the regular conductor and the entire band.

Later, we returned to the same passage of the number.  I played better.

Nonetheless, Mr. Reed looked at me and said: "You think you deserve a medal?"

Obviously, I didn't. As he saw it, there was no need for praise regarding the ability to correct musical mistakes.

At 20 years of age, I handled myself better in that situation than I would have two-plus decades later.  I just kept my mouth shut and didn't display any publicly unacceptable emotion.

As one can see from the Wikipedia entry, Mr. Reed wrote reams of symphonic music and accomplished a lot during his teaching/writing/guest conducting career.

And obviously, this will (for many people) outweigh any bleats of complaint over his humiliate-in-public-in-the-pursuit-of-excellence style.

It was something I experienced in high school already.  And it also occurred in some work experiences years afterward.  Finally, it happened to me during the decade-and-a-half I have spent writing and reading poetry.

I wish I had handled certain of these later experiences (particularly in the last decade) in the way I took in Alfred Reed's symbolic back-of-the-hand: namely, grit my teeth, do things as well as humanly possible and carry on regardless.

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