Tuesday, June 04, 2019


The Girl is wrapping up her freshman year of high school this month.  She’s a “band kid,” happily playing trumpet in the marching and concert bands even though her first musical love is the piano.  She was able to play piano in the pit orchestra for the high school production of “Hello Dolly,” but otherwise, school playing means the trumpet.  (Pianos are heavy and clunky, as far as marching goes.) My own musical talents go only so far as listening, so it’s great fun watching her develop her own playing styles.  

For her, the draw of band is mostly the social element of it.  Each instrument section does some bonding, and each has its own personality.  The trumpet section -- more girls than boys -- has a sort of goofy charm; this is the group that, thirty-odd years earlier, would have giddily quoted Monty Python to each other.  Band Camp, in August, is the highlight of her year; it’s the reason she won’t be heading to Charlottesville when it’s time to drop off TB at UVA. (Still need a new pseudonym for TB…)  As she put it, when Camp was over last year, “we all got emo about it.” We don’t have the heart to deprive her of that for a twelve-hour round trip that involved a lot of packing. The grandparents will hold down the fort.

I bring this up as context for explaining why she cares so much about being the section leader for the trumpets next year.  Section Leader status is only partially about playing ability. It’s also about working well with other kids, coordinating/hosting practices over the summer, and setting the cultural tone for the section.  It’s a chance to define her clique. She has locked her sights on it.

The band director requires any students who want to be considered for section leader to write a 1 ½ page essay explaining why.  The requirements for the essay are fairly specific: the students have to include future academic and career goals, among other things, and connect them to leading their peers.  

This is where she shows some family inheritance.

She drafted the piece herself, spending a few days on it.  Before hitting “print,” she asked to me proofread for typos.  That seemed reasonable, so I did. And reader, I saw the family resemblance.  I bet you can spot it, too After several 5-8 sentence paragraphs laying out her argument -- she wants to be a writer, which means she needs to hone her communication skills -- she went with this:

I intend to write.
And to write well.

The short paragraphs!  She syncopated her paragraph rhythm, just like her Dad.

She writes like she talks, and talking involves changing speeds.  The trick is maintaining a human voice while also sticking to a subject longer than you might in conversation.  Not yet fifteen, and she already has it.

Some Dads pass along money or property.  Some pass along athletic talent, artistic talent, or political connections.  I pass along a taste for using simple sentences as a form of punctuation.

I’ll take it.  

We don’t know the result yet, but I feel like I’ve already won.