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I applied myself, just not in band


If anything defines the pinnacle of my mother's disappointment in me, it would be this: I quit band after my freshman year in high school.

And my mother is not over it yet.

To this very day, every time –every single time – the subject of my high school years come up, my mother says these exact words: "Kari didn't apply herself in high school. And, she quit band."

And it comes up more than you would think.

My musical career was long and varied, having started sixth grade band as an oboe player and was changed in a few short days to percussion after it was determined that I could not and most likely never would be able to, read music.
Musical notes at that time appeared to my brain a lot in the same way that I process primitive camping today. It just doesn't make sense. But I could read the beat, which made me less likely to be booted from the band and have to take art instead.

I was great with it because I met Darla Flick, who would turn out to be a lifelong friend. That, and even as a drummer, she could read music and played the xylophone.

Darla is now a xylophone-playing percussionist who is registrar at Midwestern State Univ. She, my mother would say, did apply herself in high school.

By the time I reached junior high I had graduated, with Darla’s help, from a cymbal and triangle aficionado to playing the snare drum. Yes, all that in two short years.

My freshman year in high school, the last year I was a non-quitter, I was assigned to the bass drum. At the time I considered this a demotion.

Although now I understand it was step one in culling the herd, with me being the crappy cow. My band director whom I loved, Greg Miller, knew in his heart I was not destined for a life in, on or around music.

That year, the Mean Green Marching Machine had drum line that included three bass drums, a whole bunch of snares, quite a few cymbal people and one set of tri-toms, which is what I wanted to play.

That was also the first year that bass drummers in the Hawk band had to march sideways. With the bass drum tethered to their body. This is what I did, and I might have weighed 95 pounds at the time.

Years later, therapy uncovered some blocked memories of falling over forward with a bass drum strapped to my body. I’m OK now, and don’t flinch anymore when I get near one.

Even though I had fun in band and loved the program, I knew my psyche couldn't withstand another year of marching sideways, terrified of a rogue wind coming down during the halftime show and knocking me on my bass.

After I quit band and shamed the family, I took journalism, yearbook where I was a photographer, and a lot of English.

I think it turned out OK.

I’m a decent writer – when I apply myself. I haven’t fallen over with a bass drum attached to me since 1980. And my momma loves me anyway.