The greatest reward of my career as a music teacher has been the
opportunity to foster a wide variety of relationships with an even
wider variety of young men and women. I have grown to understand
on various levels many different breeds of young hearts, each with
its own securities and insecurities.
------ I'll never forget one such young
man. He was a drummer who loved his music; heavy metal rock-and-roll.
He was a self-professed head-banger through and through with his
shoulder length hair and rough street-smart exterior. One of the
truly uncanny things about him was his devotion to other types of
music as well. He had quite obviously spent many hours working on
skills far beyond those necessary for playing his rock-and-roll
drum kit. It was also obvious to those who watched him closely that
his enjoyment for playing all types of music was masked by a somewhat
contrived cavalier bravado. His image as a thrasher would surely
be damaged if anyone were allowed to see how the music moved him.
He had to be careful not to let his guard down. One diversionary
tactic, which served him well, was a very sarcastic, if not sardonic
sense of humor, and his calculated lack of emotion toward emotional
situations was often a none-to-convincing shield.
------ On one occasion I was able to
witness him working outside his normal group of peers. He had been
selected for the All-Region Band as principle percussionist, a position
he embraced with a feverish intensity. The conductor of the group
had selected a very emotional piece that attempted to depict the
bombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II. From the fear of
the impending raid and the prayerful consideration of the victims
through the attack itself and the haunting silence of the aftermath,
no emotion was spared. The piece challenged the percussion section
to create much of the tension and fire of the attack, and my most
intense young drummer was certainly equal to the task.
------ As the end of the allotted rehearsal
time drew near, the conductor called upon the band to perform the
piece in its entirety, having saved the most dramatic part, the
actual firestorm, for this final moment. His intent was to do everything
possible to assure that tedious, time-consuming rehearsal would
not interfere with the musician’s emotional connection with
the underlying theme. Judging from the mood created during this
final few minutes of rehearsal. I believed he had been hugely successful.
It was evident the concert would yield quite an experience.
------ The students cleared the stage,
heading many different directions as they began their dinner break,
the concert only hours away. By the time I made my way down to the
stage area, only one performer remained. My tough-as-nails percussionist
remained on the stage, reverently packing away percussion paraphernalia.
As I moved toward him he looked up, and in his usual gruff, monotone
voice made a simple comment. “I cried.” Accustomed to
the satirical cynicism of his humor, I felt the corners of my mouth
begin the formation of a smirk when I stopped myself, noticing the
sincerity written all over his face. Wishing to give myself another
opportunity to support his touching experience I asked him to repeat
himself.” In a tone that shouted, “you heard me the
first time, now why are you going to make me go through the trauma
of repeating this?” he repeated his words. “ I____ cri___ed.”
His description of the experience was certainly brief, and part
of my initial skepticism rose from its peculiarly blunt nature.
It seemed to me that most people would state that the experience
was moving, or that it in some manner possessed a power that brought
them to tears. When I came to recognize the reality of the event,
I realized that this admission did not dance around the issue at
all. It seemed to state, “the tears were all mine and I’m
proud of it.”
------ I wanted to acknowledge his
openness. I wanted to encourage his ability to respond emotionally
to the situation. I wanted to share in the experience. But there
were no words I could find that could add anything of value to the
moment. We simply walked away, got in the car, and drove away to
dinner. I remember the extreme honor I felt at that moment. The
tears had dried, the event was over, and he could have easily made
a clean escape. But instead he allowed me inside. His words didn’t
tell me that he was a loving, caring soul; that I already knew.
His words told me that our relationship was a safe and secure place
he could trust himself to enter. The rest of the evening found us
conversing in the usual frivolous manner. On the surface one would
never dream anything had changed. But we both knew, through an intuition
that need never be verbalized, that our relationship would never
be the same.
© 2004 The Trill House