ON A WHIM last Thursday night, I responded to an article in that day’s ‘Texarkana Gazette’ about the ongoing and annual three-day meeting of the Four States Bandmasters Association.
The bandmasters assemble at Texas High and bring in their best musicians for classes, clinics and performances.
The Thursday night attraction was a jazz orchestra from UA-Monticello, and the real reason I went was because I have heard the band twice before — both times at the Hot Springs Jazz Festival. I’m not talking about small combos — these are 20-piece orchestras plus vocalists.
I was in Hot Springs with the Navigator both of those enjoyable times. The first time, we also heard bands from several other Arkansas colleges. I expected UA-M (being the smallest of the schools) to be the least of the bands, but NO, they were the best.
Later, I learned that UA-Monticello is famous not only for its forestry program, but for its music program.
So I went to Texarkana. This time without the Navigator who had other important things to do — like knitting and folding clothes and buffing floors and stuff.
Nervous about finding my way around the swell new fine arts building on the Texas High campus, I got there early. Wandered into the theatre where the concert was to take place.
I was 30-minutes early but I was also rewarded. I had fine seat for the band’s tuning, warmup and microphone placements. Got to talk with a guy who is Director of Music at UA-M.
Came concert time and the band played for about an hour — the performance was limited because it was in the middle of some of the activities of the high school students.
Many of the UA-M musicians were grad students, and some had returned to campus to complete study for a degree. The band’s director told the audience a little about some of the musicians. One had been on a world tour with the BB King band. One had played a couple of years with the Glen Miller Orchestra (can you believe it’s still in circulation?). One had been in the US Air Force and played in one of its bands. Lots of them had out-of-college musical experiences.
It was a very fine concert.
I was pleasantly surprised at how the high school kids reacted to the musicians’ solos, and how they all applauded enthusiastically at the end of the numbers. It was a nice experience to be in an audience with people who really understood and appreciated what the performers were doing.
There was not a single cellphone ringtone; no flickering lights from an iPhone text. I’m not fooling myself: The bandmasters had probably laid down the law.
The UA-M band included musicians from Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana. None from Oklahoma.
I do love ‘live’ music.
I remember one oldtime peach blossom festival here in which a jazz band from Henderson came and played. They were pretty fine, too. They set up under the awning at the front of what is now a resale store next to Morris Drug in the 100 block of South Main. They played to a crowd of about a dozen.
About 100 yards up the street, between Nashville Drug and the bank, a local country and western band was playing to a crowd large enough to overflow Main Street and the side streets in all directions.
They were pleasing the crowd, too.
Looking back, I really appreciate my own musician experience in bands at NHS and Texarkana Junior College. My Nashville band directors included Ruel Oliver, Don Crowson, Bob Hardin, Bill Millwood. Then I had some ‘doctor’ at TJC who was pretty contemptuous of musicians who came from the ‘wrong’ side of the state line.
The best thing about our college band was that the football team played other schools in East Texas, and we got to oogle the other schools’ all-female drill teams, like the Tyler College Apache Belles and, woo woo, the Kilgore College Rangerettes.
THINKING ABOUT music reminded me that sometimes I like to listen to classical music when I drive long distances. That’s how I came into contact with this gem: The most recorded classical piece of all time is ‘The Four Seasons’ by Antonio Vivaldi.
And now back to our regular programming.
That would be oldies rock, soul and jazz.
THE PAIR. That loving couple, arguing over a haircut — Sampson and Delilah.
THINGS I LEARNED from opening email: Borrow money from pessimists — they don’t expect it back.
HE SAID: “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.” Earl Nightingale, radio personality
SHE SAID: “If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn’t swim.” Margaret Thatcher, statesman
SWEET DREAMS, Baby