That B-Word I’ve Been Waiting to Hear

frumsWith the start of middle school for Evan came the option to enroll in band.

I’ve been waiting for it. Ready for it. Of course, it ultimately came down to what Evan wanted to do, but I secretly hoped he would. And he did. He chose percussion–drums. Of course all band parents hope their child does not choose drums, and many nix it. I wasn’t afraid in the slightest. The kid wants to play drums. So be it.

The start of this new thing has not been uneventful. First, I had to get an instrument for him. We went right away. I was going to just buy him a snare drum, which is what the kids always started out with when I was in school. Nope. They have to have a bell kit, complete with a drum practice pad, a xylophone-type instrument, a stand, mallets, and sticks. And because this was Evan, I knew he would likely quit in a couple of months when he realizes that I intend to make him practice. So I opted to rent to start us out. So they hand me this form to complete. The rental fee is a whopping $22 per month. Nothing to break the bank. So I fill this form out. It consisted of my name, employer, social security number, address, employer’s address, how long, etc. Then she hands me this other sheet–5 references. Okay, I guess, just to ensure I’m not going to skip town with an instrument. Of course my phone was dead, holding within its lifeless body all of my contacts and their numbers. I had to dig deep to come up with 5 people whose addresses and phone numbers I actually knew. So I finish and start to get my wallet out to pay the woman for the first month and the book that Evan needs. Not so fast. Next she hands me a sheet of paper with more detailed information–my last 3 employers, my occupation, highest level of education. Now, mind you, all of this is duplicated for John. Then she needs my driver’s license. At one point, I looked at her and asked her how much it would cost to just pay for the damned thing. I know a snare is only a few hundred. Nope, this is over $1000 worth of stuff. So I am just waiting for her to ask me to bend over for the body cavity search while she runs my credit. But she doesn’t. Instead, I reach for my wallet out of my purse, now ready to pay her. I never dreamed. They tried to decline me!!!! I have purchased 2 new cars in the past few years. I can walk into my bank and ask for a great deal of money on credit and they will give it to me. I have multiple college degrees, a good income, and decent time on my job. Why in the hell would they deny me for something that only costs $22/ month? Well, because I have a medical bill that went to collections that I am still making payments on–for Evan’s autism diagnosis. It was thousands of dollars, and I just didn’t have the funds to pay it in full at the time. So I have been paying $250/ month for it and still owe about 2.5 more months of these payments. That is why. The good credit didn’t matter. Now if I were trying to buy a $100,000 car or something, I could see them being that particular, but this? So I was about to call my bank and arrange to just buy the thing when the woman came back and told me that it was okay, that she called their credit department, who told her to apologize to me and put it through. But then I thought about what this meant.

We have decent credit–decent enough to get credit when we need it. The only real mark against us, aside from that bill, is that we don’t own our home. That is intentional because of my education. I have no idea where I am going to be 6 months from now, so it is a convenience to just rent. I have a decent middle class income, own late model cars that I pay for on time. What about all of the people out there who earn less, have lots of medical bills, or are just pieces of crap and don’t pay? Those kids are deprived the opportunity to play an instrument, to learn music? So that leads to the next thing.

Music education is not a luxury. I know because I was a student of music. I wanted to play an instrument and, tired of buying expensive instruments for kids who would ultimately quit, my mom was hip to the game and made me choose from one our family already owned. I got my sister’s flute. And I was good at it. I played for years, with the school teachers always recommending private lessons. Mom got those for me through the local music store for a whopping $8 per hour. But within a year, I quickly outgrew those. She had to find someone from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to teach me–someone who was good. Those got more expensive, but Mom paid the $72  per hour each week. And I got good at it.  Good enough to win awards, have articles in the paper about competitions I won, honors I received. By the time I was in high school, Mom was ill. They had to file bankruptcy on medical bills. And I outgrew my sister’s flute. It was time for a professional model. The one that worked best was over $4000, and my parents simply could not do it. Of course I couldn’t either. Knowing I wanted to go on to major in music, the band director at my high school cosigned for the huge purchase and I got a job at McDonald’s to pay the payments directly to him so he ensured they were paid. And I paid the last payment right before I left for college. Mom, continued to be my biggest fan, though. She followed me around to all of the concerts, competitions, solos, honor bands and orchestras in which I was invited to play. She would always have to sit in the back with her oxygen tank, and she would cry as I would play my solos. At home, when I would practice, she would listen through the air vents, knowing that I would get nervous and stop if I knew she was listening, She doesn’t know that I knew.

So I went to college. They went to great lengths to break me down, knowing that in the music world, only the toughest survive. I rolled with it, but it was emotionally draining to take something I loved so much and make it into so much work. And Mom got even sicker. She couldn’t be there anymore. And then she passed away. And I would try to play and would come across sheet music for a piece she had wanted me to learn or for a song she loved to hear me play, and I would break down, unable to play through the tears. I eventually gave up. When I fell on financially hard times in my early twenties, I sold that expensive flute. I have not touched one since. But the lessons I learned–about finding what you love, what you are good at, and throwing yourself into it; about hard work in exchange for goals reached, about the bonding power of music, about the value of a support system–I took all of these with me. They are still here and still influence me daily. I want the same for Evan. I want the same for Evan’s classmates. This is why it made me so sad that some children may not be able to participate because of their parents.

Evan may never be a rock god, a virtuoso, a prodigy when it comes to music. But I will encourage him. I will be there. I will remind him of the value of it all. My mom served as a great role model in that.

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