When I was a junior I played second alto sax in Senior Jazz Band B, and we went to Reno, in February, with Senior Jazz Band A. We were excited, because for the first time on a band trip, we’d stay in a hotel.
One of my room mates was Stephanie, a senior and lead alto sax in Jazz Band A. As soon as we got to our room, she unpacked and neatened up and put a cup with apple flavored granola bars on the dresser. She told us all to help ourselves whenever we wanted. My own mom was not as cosy and motherly as Stephanie.
Soon after, she got very sick with the flu. Outside, snow began to fall and everyone went out to walk around Reno and look at the lights. The teacher brought Stephanie soup. The next day was the music festival and competition we had come for. In the morning Stephanie’s voice was gone and she couldn’t eat breakfast.
Jazz band B played and we did okay, but didn’t win. Then it was time for Jazz Band A. It’s important to know that Stephanie was a huge part of the A team. She was also the first chair clarinet in Concert Band.
The teacher told us that unlike a concert band festival, we could cheer for our jazz band in the audience, so we sat close and did. Jazz Band A blew everyone away. They had a number of excellent musicians. But I knew what it took for Stephanie to be up there. She played as if she was as fit as a champion.
Being a good lead is no small thing. Leads start out as the best player in the room. But much more is asked of a leader than just playing better than four random people. A leader is supposed to sing, and light the way for others. In truth, I’ve never seen a player get that call but didn’t heed it. Stephanie was particularly great at it. Music doesn’t lie. When you heard Stephanie play, you heard strength and joy.
Jazz Band A won, and even though I wasn’t in Jazz Band A, I felt a sizzle run through me when they announced it. It was a big deal for a band from a smallish city in Canada to win in the big bad States. I could not wait for next year, when I could try out for Jazz Band A.
The real punchline, though, is this. It was the apple flavored granola bars. That someone so homey and nice could also be a true musical superhero – well, that made my heart grow five sizes in one day, like the Grinch’s. On that band trip to Reno.