Being musical – I’ve played piano since 2nd grade, organ since age 22, and oboe from ages 12 to 18 – you’d think I would have enjoyed music class at school. While I can definitely recall some interesting moments from music class, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it.
In elementary school, I think I had a different music teacher each year. I’m not sure if our school was so bad that they kept quitting, or what the problem was, but each year it was someone new. Also, until I believe 6th grade, we didn’t have a music room – the music teacher went from room to room with a wheeled cart containing a record player (yes, record player) and whatever else we might need. We didn’t feel pathetic or underfunded; that’s just the way it was.
I remember in second grade we were singing a song from the music book. I was absent-mindedly flipping through the book and became fascinated by a song I found about Smokey the Bear. The teacher stopped the class and reprimanded me for looking through the book during the song. I was humiliated!
Who could forget Mr. Fritz? He was fond of singing, “Hello, Susan” and I would need to copy his pitches and sing “Hello, Tony” or whoever was next. So on down the line we went, and pity the poor soul who couldn’t carry a pitch. This particular year, it was Tonda. “Hello, Tonda” Mr. Fritz sang. “Hello, Mr. Fritz,” Tonda tried singing, but unfortunately, Tonda was tone-deaf. Mr. Fritz kept repeating it and repeating it until Tonda was in tears. Gym class may have been the most brutal, but music had its moments of combat as well.
The sixth grade music teacher was the worst of all (I’ll keep him anonymous in case he ever googles himself). He was a pleasant guy, but totally unable to deal with sixth graders (or actually with any class of students, I suspect). My complete memory of sixth grade music class consisted of being given a 5-page dittoed handout with the lyrics to popular songs of the day. He would ask what we wanted to sing, and we’d turn to that page while he would find the proper spot on the record. Then we’d sing “Mac the Knife,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” or whatever. During these songs, kids would fly paper airplanes all over the room. Braver ones would walk behind the teacher, giving him “rabbit ears” while he stood by, apparently oblivious.
One day after music class, he called me, my friend Miriam, and Beth to stay after class. I was nervous – why was I in trouble? Heck, even the bad kids never got into trouble in that class. Turns out, he wanted the three of us to sing a trio in the Christmas concert. To this day, I maintain that he chose us not because of our voices, but because we were the only ones not launching projectiles at him during class.
What do you remember of music classes when you were young?