Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sven's Quest For Glory

For the secondary music teacher in Texas, there is no quest greater than Contest. (We always say Contest with a capital "C.") Once a year, our ensemble is judged on prepared performance and sight reading, earning a score from I (Awesome!) to a V (Seriously, what is it you do? Because you don't teach music.). The rules are strict, the standards are high, and every director, no matter how experienced, quails before the challenge, but they do it every year, some because they are required to, but most because of the thrill of competition.

I confess that I have a problem with Contest. Before Princess was born, I taught secondary level choir for several years. I took students to Contest almost every year, and we generally did well (I's and II's, mostly). However, the attempt to objectify and quantify something very subjective and intensely personal, like music, does not sit well with me. I recognize that we have to do something to hold our profession accountable and make sure curriculum is being taught, so to Contest we go, but I still don't like it.

Sven, on the other hand, has, in my opinion, a dream situation. He's an assistant band director, which means he's responsible for the secondary ensemble, or "non-varsity" group. (A third group is "sub-non-varsity." We're all about official terms here.) The second group can go, but doesn't have to. It's up to the directors to make that call. Early in the school year, it began, as it always does:

"I don't think my band is going to make it to Contest this year."

"I have no trumpets. No trumpets. There's no way we can go to Contest this year."

"I can't find music for Contest this year. I guess I'll have to write my own."

My response, as always, is a hopeful, "So maybe you won't go to Contest this year?"

Ha. Let me repeat: Ha. Because Sven ALWAYS goes to Contest. In his professional life, it is his reason for being. He always goes. He always does okay. This year, though, there have been several signs that perhaps he shouldn't go:

  1. His best players have been pulled to fill out the top band, as usual
  2. Several kids failed classes who usually don't, making them unable to participate
  3. His mother is in the hospital, improving but still ill, and he's the one who makes decisions for her
  4. We haven't done our taxes yet
  5. He is still rewriting some of the music for his players, some of whom he has pulled from the beginning band
  6. The contest is in Jasper, a 3-hour school bus ride away. Blech.
  7. The contest is tomorrow. April 1. April Fool's Day.

Sven was able to ignore all of these signs and perservere, as he always does. However, last night he received a phone call. I watched his face go from a smile to solemnity. I thought, "It's his mom. She's taken a turn for the worse." He continued to listen, his expression clouding more and more.

"Thanks," he said, hanging up. He looked at me, his face grave, and said this:

"A fat kid fell on my baritone player."

Apparently, in PE yesterday, his lone baritone player was getting a drink of water when a much larger student stumbled out of bounds and fell on him, forcing him into the water fountain and cutting his head quite severely. It seems that the student will be okay, but stitches were necessary and the cut made it necessary to cover an eye. No baritone player for contest.

Sven's going anyway. He's pulling a 6th grader up to take the wounded baritone player's place. I've told him this will either be a historic triumph (perservering against all odds) or a horrible cautionary tale (ignoring the signs).

I'll let you know Thursday which one it is. Either way, I think Rob Pattinson should play Sven in the movie.


Kristina P. said...

I thought that the statement about the fat kid falling on the baritone was going to be a metaphor for something. Color me surprised.

Barbaloot said...

Wow---poor baritone player. I wish Sven the best in the Contest Conquest.

Sneaky Momma said...

Good luck to your Sven at Contest! I cannot even imagine the pressure. His students will have a ball regardless of the outcome. I hope he does, too. :)

Glenene said...

From my many earlier years as a band mom, and now my years as a semi-participant -- I understand and sympathize! Best of luck, Sven!

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

As a baritone player myself, and a victim of Jr. High hi-jinx, let me say that this story made me cringe. I can't remember anything good about Jr. High. I am surprised sometimes that I survived. Oh, yeah - I can remember one: walking out that last day of ninth grade... Yeah, that was a nice feeling.

If he needs a baritone I can sit in. I can still sight read pretty well and could almost pass as a sixth grader...

Boy Mom said...

I'm so inspired! Sven, way to recover from the "Fat Kid" probably an assassin paid by the competition to take out the baritone player, lose the baritone and you lose the beat. Way to call in the sleeper. I can't wait to see if you get awarded a 'V' for victory or for something else.

PetalsYoga said...

OMG! That was the funniest blog posting I've read in a long time. Way to go Sven! I'll be back to see if any other unsuspecting ensemble members are "squashed" from the competition.

Debbie said...

What a bad turn of events to have the baritone player squished like that. So, how did it go?

Femin Susan said...

Your doing great!! Keep up the good work!