A Lesson from High School Band Camp

One of my first stops on returning home this summer was the local junior high school to visit Beth, one of my old music teachers. As we got caught up on life, she mentioned that I should stick around to say hi to someone else: Mr. C, the high school band director, would be stopping by to talk with the rising eighth- and ninth-graders about joining the marching band. I did so, and even helped collect information forms from the kids who attended the meeting. By day’s end, not only had I gotten to catch up with two of my favorite people, I also volunteered to help out with marching band.

It’s not that big of a commitment, really. From late June through the end of July, the band meets at the high school one night a week to learn and rehearse the music for the year’s show. Most of my time this summer was spent helping with these rehearsals; in particular, working with students who are just learning trombone. Of course I also spend time talking with the instructors, too, many of whom had me as a student. It’s been interesting to think about how our conversations have changed over the years, from those of teacher and student to those shared by fellow educators. It’s also been a great comfort to me that, as I’ve Transitioned, they’ve been some of my greatest supporters.

Anyway, this week started the most grueling part of marching band season: band camp. For this school, band camp takes place over the course of two weeks, 8-3, Monday to Friday. Typically, students spend the morning setting the drill up on the field, while afternoons are devoted to sectional music rehearsals. At the end of the day, the entire band gathers back together to hear announcements from Mr. C. Said announcements typically include things like times for uniform fittings, information about the next day’s rehearsal, and information about any fundraisers in progress. Today, Mr. C had order forms for one such fundraiser with him. As he talked, Mrs. L and I moved in to take the forms so we could distribute them. “So if you need a form,” Mr. C concluded, “just see one of these ladies to get one.” I could see the confusion on some of the students’ faces, and made some joke about how Mr. C needed to get his eyes checked. That earned a few chuckles, breaking the tension, and things moved on. A couple dozen kids swarmed me after the meeting finished to pick up order forms. Once they’d dispersed, I walked the leftovers back to where Mr. C stood. He accepted the forms, looked me in the eye, and apologized for mis-gendering me. His face showed how sorry he was. I had no problem accepting his apology, although I did tease him about getting old and forgetting things. He retaliated by calling me a “young whipper-snapper”, but I could see his relief at the fact that I’d forgiven him. The truth is, I wish that more people were like Mr. C. If more people could just support one another and own up to their mistakes like that, the world would be a much better place.

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