Hagebak: I’m not with the band

Published 1:35 am Saturday, February 18, 2017


When I was a little girl, I loved drums. Mama did too, and she had an entire album of nothing but people playing drums. I would open the top of our big old console record player-slash-AM-FM stereo and put on that album and keep time with the funky beat. I knew how to bob my head and the top half of my body just like a real drum player because whenever we went to Grandmaw’s to watch television and there was music on, I always watched the drummer. I just knew that I was going to grow up to be a world-renowned jazz drummer!

I practiced and practiced, on any surface that I could find. I rat-a-tat-tatted all over the house until Mama developed a twitch and Daddy suddenly had to work a lot of overtime. Even Brother, who was usually my biggest fan no matter what I was doing, started finding a lot of reasons to be outside when he should’ve been sitting around getting into the groove of my fierce beats. The fam didn’t get me. They didn’t understand that I was a hep-cat. I let my bangs grow out so they hung in my eyes and sighed a lot at the tragedy of being surrounded by a bunch of squares, man.

One day in fifth grade, the teacher announced that we would be given a music affinity test, to see if we had what it took to be in band! I was about to be discovered! I redoubled my efforts and on the day of the test, I was ready! I was going to hate telling my family goodbye when the people that made the jazz scene up in New York saw my test and realized that there was a rhythmical prodigy down in Georgia and swept me away so that I could continue to learn among my true people.

When the tests came back, I sat fidgeting in my seat, sure that when the teacher put mine on my desk there would be fanfare and guys in round sunglasses and striped bell-bottoms would come in and make the other kids jealous when they asked me to join their band and travel the world.

The little sheet of paper that the teacher put on my desk said that I had a “Fair” musical aptitude, while people all around me were getting “Above Average” and “Excellent.” I was crushed. At least until my inner genius convinced me that my musical aptitude was so sophisticated, so advanced, that some goofy elementary school test could never hope to measure it. Just like ol’ Albert Einstein was misunderstood until he discovered that E equaled MC squared and set the world on fire, it was my burden to walk unnoticed among the “Above Averages” and “Excellents” until my first gold record of drum solos hit Number One.

I didn’t tell Mama and Daddy that I had “Fair” musical aptitude. I just told them that I wanted to be in band in sixth grade, and play drums. They gave permission, and so I was in the group of students who tromped down the hall and into the auditorium the day the High School music teacher came to help us pick out our instruments.

I slouched in my seat, patting out rhythms with my hands and feet, letting the music move me, man.

“Could whoever’s making that racket, please stop?” the Band Director looked up from where he had been showing a little girl how to make flute wind and glanced around with a frown.

Well, I never.

Finally, it was my turn. I walked down the aisle slowly, nodding my head with a cool-cat disdain at the little clumps of kids who’d been separated into groups according to the instrument they’d been assigned. The flutes were all together, and the clarinets. The drummers were all boys – at least they would be until I joined their little group. Oh, it might be hard for them at first, to accept a girl drummer into their midst, but soon they’d realize my natural talent and musical superiority and welcome me as their leader.

The band director patted out a little pattern on his legs, “rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat-a-tat-a.” and asked me to repeat it on my legs.

Oh man! I was gonna blow this cat’s mind with my beats!

Rat-a-tat-a-tat-tat-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-rat-a-rat-a-rat-tat-tat! Then- “Chinnnnng!”

“What was that?” he asked with a funny look on his face.

“That was the cymbal!”

He sat there with his mouth hanging open for a while. He scratched behind one ear. He pinched the bridge of his nose between a thumb and forefinger. I could tell he was blown away.

“I bet you’d really like the saxophone.” he said.

I think he was just jealous.