Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Little Rhythm Can Go A Long Way ...

September of 1941 was my very first month of school life. I loved school. I loved Mrs. Ruth Hill, my first grade teacher. When she announced that the class was going to hold try-outs for a Rhythm Band that would play for our Christmas program, it seemed like a great idea.

I did not really know what a band was nor did I know what “rhythm” meant. I only knew that it sounded like fun so I volunteered for the try-outs.

The instruments consisted of four kazoos, four triangles, four tambourines, some rhythm sticks and a bass drum. I was hoping for a kazoo but the girls took over those as well as the triangle section. Then I thought it would be neat to play a tambourine, but those were assigned before they got to me. It was beyond hope that I would get to play the bass drum. Lionel Roberts got the nod on that.

There were several pupils waiting to be assigned to an instrument. Mrs. Hill told us that there was room for only four more band members. Several of us were going to try-out for those four rhythm stick positions.

Each stick player held two sticks; one in each hand. The idea was to strike the sticks together on beat number one. Rest on the second beat. Strike the sticks again on beat three and rest on the fourth beat. Then repeat the sequence starting with number one.

This was confusing to me. First of all I could not figure out why we needed to count. Secondly, I could not figure out why we just counted to four and then started over with one. Why didn’t we keep going right on up … five, six, seven, etc? I had never heard of four beats to a measure. In fact I had never even heard of a music measure.

Mrs. Hill let me try-out several times but I did not connect. It was pretty embarrassing because, Jimmy Miggs, Johnny Davis, Jerry Carter, James Ermis and others were picking it up just fine.

Basically, this is why I became a topnotch auditorium stage curtain puller. At least that’s what Mrs. Hill told me one day. She said, “Winston, you are one of the best curtain pullers we have ever had.” I beamed, went home and told my mother about how good I was at pulling the curtain.

Later, in December of that same year, my family visited aunt Hazel and uncle Fred who lived in Glenmora, Louisiana. It was cold and they had their pot-bellied wood stove going full blast. At bed time, they fixed me a pallet on the floor in the living room across from the stove. I lay motionless listening to the wood burn. It had a rhythm to it. I listened and began to count. All of a sudden, it dawned on me about
rhythm, counting, and about measure segments in music. In fact, I began hearing a beautiful melody in my mind. Ever since that night, I can turn on music in my head. If I want to hear a symphony orchestra or band march music or country or even a jazz combo, all I need is to call it up in my mind and listen. What is really neat about this is I can listen to songs I already know or I can call for original melodies. Beautiful melodies of classical, country, march, jazz or whatever flood my soul.

One of the most gratifying things about all of this is that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that should I return to the first grade and try-out for the rhythm band, I would pass the audition.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise


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