My High School Band Director

The truth is, I joined band in elementary school because my friends where.  I actually hated it.  I wanted to play the flute, but somehow (I don’t really remember how or why) I ended up with clarinet.  I was scared to death of the elementary school band instructor and the little room that I had to go to take lessons.  He was scary and intimidating and should never have been teaching young children.

In elementary school I would lug my clarinet all the way to school and even tell the teacher I was going to my lesson, but then usually hide in the bathroom for the allotted time. 

I got to Jr. High.  My mom told me I had to keep playing for another year.  She wouldn’t let me quit.  The first year I hated it.  I can’t remember why I stayed the next year – probably some deal I worked out with my mom or maybe I started to like it.  I don’t remember. 

In 9th grade my high school band instructor, Mr. Arnone, suggested I try the saxophone.  It’s basically all ancient history from there.  I flourished.   My mom always says it’s because of my hearing loss – that I couldn’t hear the clarinet and I could hear the sax.  It’s not that, though.  I loved the saxophone.  I loved how it sounded.  I was good on the saxophone.  It became the one light in my very dark and depressed life at the time.

Mr. Arnone gave me the love of music.  He inspired me. 

In our high school, when you went to “state” anything, your picture went on the wall.  Photos of athletes, choral students and band students lined the hallway outside the office.  I wanted my photo there, too.  It was an obsession.  I didn’t make it to state band.  The competition was tough – I was auditioning for a tenor sax position – there were very few spots.  I got arrogant and thought I’d breeze through.  I didn’t.  I didn’t make it.  It crushed me.  It was a turning point in my life. 

I know now, 17 years later, it doesn’t matter.  It shouldn’t have even matter then. 

It was my entire life at the time, and I was devastated.    

Enter Mr. Arnone.  Mr. Arnone started a tradition then because of my crushed feelings.  I didn’t make it into state band, but I had made it into a more elite band – the John Philip Sousa National Honors Band.  (I got less arrogant, I guess….)

I should say, I don’t know that Mr. Arnone actually started that tradition for me per se.  That is my reflection looking back.  (Or maybe I was just the first one who made it from our school.  I can't remember...)

He decided that students who made it into that band deserved to go on the wall, too.  My photo was placed in the “new” music wing wall.  (Boy, I’m old!)

While I still went through my whole depression (later to find out I was bipolar), Mr. Arnone was an amazing help.

Mr. Arnone could be strict, but he was fair.  He cared deeply about the students and the music program.  He got me through many difficult days at school.  I asked him if I could learn to play the drums, he had someone teach me.  I asked him if I could go back to the clarinet for some songs in concert band for more of a challenge, he encouraged it.  I wanted to learn a way too technical song for a high school student, he told me I could pull it off.

I went to college originally for Music Education.  I wanted to be a band director, like Mr. Arnone.  (My life has taken a long and winding path since then. . .)  

I am just one student from a long time ago of Mr. Arnone.  There were a lot of people in band and he had many students before and many since then.  Mine is just one story of many.

Mr. Arnone will be remembered as a legend in Hughesville.  He was my teacher, my mentor, my cheerleader and my biggest supporter musically (besides my mom and dad.)

It may be cliché to say, but his spirit will live on through the people who he taught, and through the people who those people teach, etc.

(Mr. Arnone died on January 9, 2011)

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