“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
When the fourth graders in band struck up that tune during the Veterans Day program, we couldn’t help but smile. Then, we applauded loudest when players tongued the tune’s final notes.
That simple, but widely recognized melody was the first song we learned to play on the saxophone when we started band in the fourth grade more than five decades ago.
With no musical inclinations whatsoever, why would we ever take band? Mom wanted us to be in band, so we were, and she was forever very delighted by it.
Mom had quite similar musical inclinations of ours, so our being in band may have been reliving her childhood, like some parents insist their kids ride horses, although they have no ability or interest.
Why the saxophone? Knowing nothing about instruments, we wanted to play the trombone, but Mr. Wortman, the band director, was short of saxophone players. He urged Mom to get us a saxophone, so she did, and we really tried to learn to play it.
Helen Prater, the city treasurer who worked at the bank next to our grocery store, could hear us practicing in Grandma’s apartment above the store, and always complimented us on playing: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
Other times, we’d practice in the store’s backroom, which kept customers at the storefront, as far away as they could get.
Practice really doesn’t do any good if there’s no natural ability, but we practiced every day as the director suggested. That is for a couple of years, and then just “during band in school.”
Improvement never came, but because Mom was always so proud that “Frankie plays in band,” we continued through our junior year in high school.
The director and other band members didn’t throw us out, but they couldn’t hide embarrassment when we always played either wrong, or sharp, or flat notes.
Finally, fortunately, the saxophone was retired, until our daughter took it over years later. Sadly, she had her dad’s and grandma’s ability.
Reminds us of First Samuel 16:16: “When the black mood moves in, play music and feel better.” Yet, obviously it wasn’t us referred to in First Samuel 16:18: “He is an excellent musician, courageous, well-spoken, and good-looking.” However, fittingly, First Kings 2:20: “Just ask mother, for I will not refuse you.”