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The Path to the Unknown
"Anyone interested in performing in the District VIII Honors Jazz Band this year?"
asked Mr. Yeazell, my band director "Because I have all the information needed to sign-
up for auditions."
For some reason, deep down inside I did not feel I had a chance at all of making the
honors band, so I watched everybody else go up to obtain the application material.
Days went by, and eventually I had forgotten completely about the event, until Mr.
Yeazell once again brought it up,"Everybody involved in the District VIII Honors Jazz
Band don't forget your first practice is tomorrow down at University of Dayton. I have
maps and room numbers for those of you who have never done this before. One more
thing Willie Anderson, the coordinator, asked me to see if I could get one more
trombone, two trumpets, and another alto sax for the band. Anyone interested?"
Without thinking, my hand shot up like a bullet, and before I could realize what I had
done, Mr. Yeazell called on me.
" Mr. Coleman, thanks for volunteering. Since I know your playing ability, I will tell
Willie that there is no need for a tryout. Besides, I think he is becoming desperate if you
ask me. You will also need to go to U.D. on Saturday for practice. Do you need a ride?"
"O.K." and “Yes,” was all I was able to say. What had I done? I was not qualified to
play in the honors band I stink. I had trouble playing the music in the high school jazz
band, let alone the music that was geared towards the musically gifted! The next few
hours and throughout that night, I could not think of anything but the mistakes I was
going to make on Saturday during practice. What if I screwed up? What if I was made
fun of? I didn't think I would be able to handle that kind of put-down.
That night I had a terrible nightmare. It was the first day of practice, and when I
walked into the room, I was surrounded by jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Emilio
Castillo, Maynard Fergusson, Wynton Marsalis, Stan Kenton, and more. They all turned
to look at me, and when they saw I was a kid, they just grumbled and went back to what
they were doing previous to me entering the room.
" Yo cat, what’cha think you’re doing here?" asked Dizzy.
" I was suppose to show up here for District VIII Honors Jazz Band," I replied.
As I said that, everybody in the room started laughing. This is when I woke up, and it
was Saturday morning.
Mr. Yeazell picked me up around nine, and I was off. I was comforted by the fact
that I was going to know four of the people in the band because they also came from my
school. When we arrived, people were just unpacking their instruments and getting
seated. I couldn't help but notice there were only three other trombone players in the
room. About ten minutes later, a rather large, black man entered the room. He
announced himself as Willie Anderson, the coordinator and director of the jazz band. He
started handing out the music, and my heart even dropped further, because he handed me
all the first part pieces, and the music looked tougher than I had anticipated. As we
started, the room sounded like a rhino convention in a china plate museum.
" Hold it, cats," Willie said "you've got to feel the music. Don't play the notes on the
page note for note. Play what you feel makes it swing. That’s what jazz is all about.
Now let’s try again."
Hours went by, and we had made a great deal of progress. I was feeling a little more
comfortable in what I was doing and how I was playing. Willie cut the band off, as he
usually did when he was not pleased with the progress of the piece we were currently
" Saxophones, that's a D flat through the whole piece, not just that measure. Let's try
and get it right. And you," looking straight at me, fear had now risen into my heart,
"What grade you in?"
Thinking he was going to bust on me if he found out I was senior, I was tempted to
lie, but I told him the truth.
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