Back in the day, I was what is known as a “Band Geek”. I played just about every brass instrument available at the time, at one point or another. I wasn’t a good kid in band, I was just the opposite. I was a total pain in the ass and probably caused more trouble than I did good – but hey – not much I can do about that now – I was young, drunk and stupid. (Yes, in high school).
I had the privilege of being taught by a man named Phillip Butts. Many now call him Dr. Butts. (This is not a joke, that is his name). The man, beyond a shadow of a doubt, loves music and loves teaching people how to play music. He did so in his own way. Myself and my classmates (a select few) took it upon ourselves to mock, pick on and torment this poor guy at any opportunity. As I look back now, as much as we ruffled his feathers, he was a much better man than I knew. When I got to Arundel High, Mr. Butts had been teaching forever … and last week, he retired after 40+ years as a band and orchestra teacher. He also managed his own musical career and is well known as one of the best jazz drummers around. Great guy – I’m glad I had the opportunity to know him!
Now, having said all of that, I am going to spin this blog around and say – what the hell is going on with schools and their music programs. First and foremost, I do not think ANY school should take music out of their curriculum and they should offer a good band, orchestra and choir program, but what I have to take exception to is the crap these schools are buying for the band. I mean – the high school in my neighborhood has a full sized tractor trailer all decked out and painted! I’m going to go out on a limb and say that wasn’t cheap! The other school I drive by has at least 3 vehicles with band stuff all over them. (Caution – I might say we walked uphill both ways). When I was in the band, we rode on 2 school buses. We didn’t wear seatbelts (there weren’t any). We were HOT! There was no AC on a school bus in the mid 80’s. Our practice field was a parking lot and not a smooth one. We didn’t have an 80′ tower for the drum major to watch us. We won competitions, we traveled to the beach, Canada, Disney and Myrtles Beach (that wasn’t a typo). We raised a metric ass-ton of money and we did stuff. We had NO tractor trailer… Sure, times have changed, but come on … sell the tractor trailer and pay a teacher! It just makes sense to me.
So – Mr. Butts if you ever happen upon this, I am grateful for what you taught me. I’m sorry I was such a “bubbahead”. I was a jackass. You are a great man and I hope that someday my children have the opportunity to learn from a teacher like you. A man that loves what he does and does it better because of his love for what he does. I can only remember a few teachers names and faces, but I will never forget the four years I had the opportunity to be in your Concert, Jazz and Marching bands! Thank you!