It All Began With An Old Silver Trombone

When the children were in elementary school, they each in turn opted to learn to play a musical instrument. Todd had to choose first, since he was a year older. He decided he wanted to play the trombone. My husband and I began to seriously look for an instrument that summer.

At a second-hand store in Stockton, we found an old silver trombone that we purchased for about $20. I knew that was still cheaper than renting one. The band instructor was not thrilled with our purchase but it served the purpose. Once our new instrumental music student proved that he wanted to continue with lessons, we invested in an upgraded horn.

Our son participated in the instrumental music program for the next eight years. There were times that he did not have much time to practice. In those days, the music teachers had time in their schedules to teach the students how to play their instruments. At the beginning of the school year, students began band practice before school started. The marching band was a challenging regimen with time to learn not only the music, but the field positions as well.

During his first year, our son marched near an upper classman who missed part of the basic training drills. On his first night of marching at a football game, his slide got caught in the other person’s uniform overlay and came off. He marched the rest of the program without his slide so all he had to concentrate on was the marching. When the property people collected the slide from the field it was not damaged, even though countless band members marched over it. We were lucky that we did not have to purchase a new slide.

The year after our son started, our daughter made up her mind to play the clarinet. We found a used model for her to begin. She, too, enjoyed her musical experience. Eventually we purchased an upgraded model for her as well. She played for the next eight years.

While our daughter practiced and worked hard to get to be first chair clarinet, our son squeaked by and did what he had to do, but nothing extra. He knew that being a musician was not part of his future plans. It was an excellent discipline that has proven valuable as a life skill no matter what.

When our daughter made field captain in her junior year, she was overjoyed. Unless she really messed up, she was in line for drum major in her senior year. The year she was drum major I had an outfit to make. The other drum major’s mother and I put several patterns together to create matching outfits for the girls to wear. I think my daughter still has her outfit somewhere. She lent it out one year for a contestant to wear in the Warren County Fair Queen contest talent portion.

The other night, I attended a wonderful band concert. By the time the evening was finished, I felt nothing but praise for a fine band director. The music program no longer has time for lessons. Now, one director teaches all of the band students from the sixth grade up. Although she is spread very thin, she does a magnificent job.

It was nice to see the budding students as they began their musical journey and the seasoned veterans who were performing for their last formal event. There was quite a contrast in the level of the music they played, but all of them did an outstanding job. It was an evening of free musical entertainment that was well worth making the effort to attend.

As my grandson sat on stage with the senior band, he was playing the trombone that had been his father’s. When they looked into the cost of purchasing a new one, they opted to refurbish the old one. I think it actually is heavier than the ones they make these days so that was not a bad investment.

My granddaughter also played her mother’s clarinet for a year or so, but she decided that other activities were more interesting to her.

I am thankful for the music that has filled our lives all of these years. I, too, grew up going through a music program. I tried the band, but changed to the chorus so my mother never had to purchase a musical instrument. In my era, the big musicals were in. I loved singing all of the show tunes.

Music is something that you can participate in for many years. When you are part of a musical group the people in that group also become your friends. For all of us it was a healthy group to hang out with. Many of the youth in our church participated in the school music program. Some sang while other played instruments. They were generous with their talents, performing special music for church services on many occasions.

The lady who plays most Sundays for us at church came through lessons that have enriched her life and ours. The alternate pianist admits that she gets out of her comfort zone at times, but willingly does her part. This week she seemed to be exceptionally inspired. Our little church is blessed to have had a number of talented musicians. What would a church service be like with no music? What would life be without the sense of hearing? I hope that I never have to find out.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact her at