Saturday, June 25, 2016
The Passing of The Leader of the Band
I was ten when I met him. But let's get there in a moment.
I was born here, but from the time I was around two all the way through my ninth year, I lived about 70 or so miles away. At the age of seven (I think) I was introduced to a piano, basically because my asthmatic self couldn't always join in recess or play sports... at least not on a regular basis. So, a funny thing happened on the way to filling the time... I fell in love with music. A couple years after that I was eligible to join the school band and wanted to play the sax. My mother played when she was young, you see, and still had the instrument. It was a win-win. However, my teeth were in a sad transitional state, and the music director at that school suggested I not play a wind instrument until that resolved. Dad played the drums, drumsticks were relatively inexpensive, so drums it was.
In the summer of 1970 we moved back "home"... back here. In the Fall, I was ten years old, the new kid in school, and I wanted to play the sax now. That's when I met him. He taught the younger kids basic instrumentation, and I learned the sax under his tutelage along with a few other kids my age. At the same time, I met this kid my age and, as ten-year-olds will, we became friends... best friends. And, the man was his Dad. Over the course of the next eight years of my life, I spent a lot of time in their home. Sleep-overs in the younger years, visiting in the "got my license and a car" years. Bill and I were pretty much inseparable, and I had the opportunity to get to know his parents as a result. Mr. and Mrs Bame. Never "Dave and Norma" for that wouldn't suit at all. I have a hard time even at this age forming their first names in my mouth without feeling disrespectful. I watched Mr. Bame build kites out of sticks and newspaper, saw him reading books in his favorite chair, had the privilege of hearing him laugh from time to time, and yes, witnessed him being Dad to my best friend and his siblings.
When I reached high school, I finally had Mr. Bame as our band director. I learned to love playing the sax and thought I was passably fair, and really couldn't wait to have him lead. He did so for one year before he retired. Everyone was sad, some upset. But I knew I'd continue to see him from time to time when I came over and spent time with my friend, picked him up so we could go cruisin' with the rest of our generation (circles... lots of circles). I watched him create, and even helped build a few, the most beautiful wind chimes you will ever hear, made from metal electrical conduit and fishing line. Each length cut precisely to emit the exact note, and placed so that no two chimes would be struck by the clapper that weren't perfectly harmonized. It was a means for additional income... It was art.
Bill and I attended college together, at least for a couple of years, as roommates. He was best man at my wedding at St. Peter's. I attended his wedding in a Baltimore Synagogue. I saw less and less of Mr. Bame as Bill and I left our homes and started families. I confess guilt over not at least going to visit from time to time. I can claim "life" but that's really no excuse. Bill's brother Paul moved away first, and farthest at the time. His sister Carol (my "other" little sister) is still here. I think without her I would have no contact with Mr. and Mrs. Bame, even indirectly.
Mr. Bame has passed. And while it was expected, when I got the news by throat tightened... much as it has now while I write this. There's a tear in the corner of my eye. A significant part of my childhood is gone. The Leader of the Band has laid down his baton and will direct no more. And I believe the world is a sadder place for it.
Thank you, Mr. Bame. Thank you for taking the time to set me on a path. Thank you for producing my best friend, his brilliant brother, and his sister whom I've come to love as my own. Thank you for leading all of us, generations, class after class of music makers, music lovers. Thank you.