So that may be overly dramatic. But that is exactly how I feel right now. My daughter and son are coming home from church camp and I have to tell them that they are losing their beloved band director. He has taken a job in a neighboring town. A big gain for him, a big loss for the kids. What's the big deal, you may ask. It is a big deal. From my perspective at least. And from the perspective of many other parents. To me, Penns Valleys' Mr. L is reminiscent of Titusville's marching band director, Mr. A, from way back in the 70's. A true director, a lover of music, a role model for kids.
This is both of my kids' first year in marching band. And I suppose, since we are newbies at the game, it doesn't really matter who leads the band. But Mr. L is legendary. I and my kids, knew of Mr. L early on. He was the guy who always had a smile, always made a kid feel as if s/he had the potential of Louis Armstrong, always made a fledgling feel as if marching band was the place to be when one entered high school. That's what I've heard anyway. From my few interactions, I believe it is true.
And losing Mr. L has brought up some other concerns about the value that is placed on the music department. It is no secret that the arts are often the first areas to be cut. Even before sports. But to paraphrase a line from one of my favorite films, Mr. Holland's Opus, ''if we get rid of the Arts, what will the kids have to write about" or something like that.
I'm sad. And by the volume of emails being sent back and forth, I know that I am not the only parent feeling this way. We felt safe with Mr. L and now, right before the start of the marching band season, we are unsure of what is going to happen. We have some excellent music teachers in our district and I really hope that one of them is given the opportunity (if they so desire) to step into place. But if not, I hope that the district is allowed to hire a qualified person from outside.
We need our band, our directors, our choruses, our sports - they are every bit as important as reading, writing, arithmetic, and world languages. School is not just about being able to perform proficiently on a standardized test. Schools are where we build character, develop new hobbies, test new interests. Marching band has been given a bad rap in many schools, but the Penns Valley marching band has seemed to me a band in which its members have pride.
I hope there is another director out there who can join the ranks of the Mr. Ls and the Mr. As of the schools. Someone who believes in the kids - the ones who enthusiastically jump into a new interest as well as the ones who are a little more reticent about playing an instrument. He or she has some pretty big shoes to fill. But it can be done.
This is my guy (well, one of them)- Sebastian. It is birthday. He is seven years old and in canine years, he is the same age as me. He is my pal, my running buddy, my protector. I remember when we first met. He is the pup of my brother's yellow Labrador Retriever, Punxatawney Phil. My youngest daughter and I drove to Pleasantville one Saturday morning to pick our pup. My brother offered him to me since he supplied the doggy stud for breeding.
It was love at first sight.
I've always had dogs and have grown up with dogs. My family had a succession of Spring Spaniels, wired-haired terriers, and labs. Regardless, in preparation for my pup's arrival, I read everything I could find on the proper way to raise and train Labrador Retrievers.
For his first year, I carried Sebastian up and down all the stairs to allow his hips to develop strongly. I knew that labs were suseptible to hip dysplasia and I wanted Sebastian to be strong and healthly for a very long time.
The first few nights were spent rubbing Sebastian's back so that he could sleep through the night.......which he did......which I did not. After about 3 sleepless nights, I put Sebastian in his kennel to sleep.
I'm lucky. Sebastian is an intuitive dog - naturally well-mannered. I'm not a good dog trainer. I lack consistency, harshness, and the ability to follow through. I am so fortunate that Sebastian is a laidback soul. If he was a human, he would wear tie-dyed shirts and have peace sign hung on a cord around his neck. He would probably be a vegetarian. He looks as if he should be wearing a beret and smoking dope.
Sebastian's dad was a world class duck dog - well, a county class duck dog. He was really really good and lived to hunt ducks. Sebastian is afraid of ducks. And chickens. Not so sure about rabbits.
Sebastian is my good big dog and would be my favorite running buddy if he didn't stop to pee on every rock on the path. Sebastian is the best, the most tolerant, the gentlest friend I could have.
So Happy 7th Birthday Sebastian, and more to come.
This is the face of a devil. This dog has nearly burned my kitchen. Has eaten most everything valuable to me. Has climbed up on my piano. Has taken me on many merry chases through the woods. Has filled the house with the rotten stench of dog stinkers.