Monday night, I attended a band concert by Pine Mountain Middle School, an experience that brought back memories of my own years as a preteen performer.
About 200 people filed into the school's auditorium in preparation for the 7th grade band's Christmas-themed concert. As the kids prepared for their performance, my eyes scanned their nervous young faces. My mind drifted back to my own middle school days, back to that shy, awkward boy standing under bright, hot spotlights.
As the music carries, he plays his notes, rigid with stage fright.
While some faces on stage reflected my former self, I also noted young musicians who looked completely composed, poised and ready to perform.
Ah! Those are the ones who practice. They'll go on to bigger and better things in music, I thought.
The familiar sounds of scales filled the small auditorium as the kids loosened up for the performance. I was quite impressed that the affair began right on schedule, something I never experienced in middle school band (or high school band for that matter).
Under the direction of Candace Still, the first band began a three piece set. The first movement was a medley of classic Christmas songs, including "O Come Emmanuel," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "In Excelsis Gloria."
Next, the band played "Jingle Bell Rock," followed by a considerably more challenging piece than the first two. The band played solidly, an admirable skill for such young musicians.
Next up was the 2nd hour band, under the direction of Assistant Director Amy Armbruster. They began their performance with Christmas classics like "Jingle Bells" and "Let it Snow."
I was particularly impressed with the last movement of the concert, where congas were introduced. As a fellow percussionist, I was glad to see that kids were getting introduced to more exotic drums. That was something I did not experience until college.
The auditorium cleared out quickly after the performance, but I did get the chance to talk to the directors of the band program, Candace Still and Amy Armbruster.
As fate would have it, Still is a former member of the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners, a band that I marched with for four years. On top of that, she had marched with Ron Becton, my high school band director. Small world, isn't it?
I was impressed by the performance, but on a deeper level, it's nice to be reminded that the arts are being taught to the upcoming generation. Perhaps one day I'll see one of those kids marching at JSU. My time in music ended last year.
Theirs is just beginning.