|March, 2008 - March was a great month. Starting to settle in to the courses at TWU, and the
students seem to be doing good work. The Denton Bell Band (www.bellband.org) performed for
two services at First United Methodist Church on the 9th, and our efforts were well-received by
the congregation. I chose to make the music totally live - using accompaniment from the grand
piano instead of our usual synthesizer. What I am noticing in the video is that I am prone to
rushing the piano part, and Byron (my associate conductor) has more difficulty hearing the
acoustic sounds at some distance. I have struggled mightily between the "artistic" capabilities
of this group (which are minimal) and the "social impact" (which is significant). By the latter I
mean the wonderful things that happen when our audiences see persons with disabilities doing
something in an orderly and acceptable format. The hearts of the listeners are changed, and the
minds of the ringers are given a big boost in terms of self-esteem and a general feeling of
acceptance. As of this writing I have almost resolved my artistic reservations, although I am sure
that with practice and improved techniques we can make improvements.
My association with members of the Bell Band dates to 1978, when many of them were
residents at the Denton State School - a facility for persons with developmental disabilities - and
I was the music director. At that time I found a set of handbells locked in a closet with unwritten
warnings that said "these cost a lot of money" and "handle with extreme care". Because of
these taboos the bells had sat unused for many years. I brought them out into the light of day
and began using them every day with the persons whom I served. Our involvement with the bells
was not an easy one. I knew nothing about the instruments, and my friends were very limited in
their ability to follow directions. Through many years of trial and error we found ways to make
acceptable music together. When many of the ringers moved to community homes, I kept in
touch with weekly rehearsals. When I eventually retired and joined the university faculty, we
began a non-profit organization to give us a base for operations. I am very pleased that our
music making has lasted for thirty years, and I hope to continue long enough to set in motion a
plan that will perpetuate this work.
March, 1980 - Continuing coverage of the winter games in Lake Placid had me amused by the
team from Texas who marched wearing their ten gallon hats - traditionally a symbol of the
snow-free Southwest. The popularity of these telecasts proves that the general public does
appreciate excellence. If this message could only be understood by producers and network
executives, the medium might be greatly improved. The impressive trail of gold medals won by
U.S. skater Eric Heiden is easier to understand in light of the following quote from his coach:
"If I give the team the afternoon off, most of them will take it. But I always know that I will see one
lonely figure running down a road to keep up his condition ..... and that will be Eric." (An update
from GOOGLE indicates that he went on to earn his M.D. from Stanford in 1991. He became
team physician for the NBA's Sacramento Kings and the Sacramento Monarchs of the
WNBA. In 2002 and 2006, he was team physician for the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team.
He opened a sports medicine-based practice in Murray, Utah.)
RHYME FOR OUR TIME:
If a man is going to walk off the job every time it doesn't suit his style,
then let him build trucks or earn his bucks doing something that can wait for awhile.
Those who decide to be firemen or teach in our nation's schools
have asked to receive the public trust; should they act like a bunch of fools?
A young mind simply can't wait, and fires don't put themselves out.
We need people who will stay on the job instead of those who picket and pout.
We've all had a taste of inflation and know what a mess things are in;
but if you pledge yourself to serve others, you'll stick it out, lose or win.
You'll strive for better conditions for firemen and teachers alike.
Resign if you can't take the pressure; do what you must, but don't strike.