"He's humming again"

A card arrived in my school mailbox recently. As if sent from the pre-digital era, it was handwritten and tucked inside a matching cream-color envelope. It came from a parent whose children had been in the band years ago. This parent, a mom, had been very supportive and encouraging of the band when her kids were enrolled, but, as inevitably occurs, we lost touch after her children graduated.

Two of her children had been in the band, a girl and a boy, but the message in her card was about her son, who I will call Eric.

Eric had played the trumpet in the band, starting as a fourth grader and playing until he went to high school. He had done well in band, was quick to pick up new concepts and worked hard to master them. He also had a friendly and cheerful personality. He just seemed a happy kid.

After meeting him in the fourth grade, I also noticed that he was naturally musical, so I wrote his mother and told her that I had noticed his talent for music. She replied that she wasn’t surprised because, although he hadn’t played an instrument before joining the band, he was “always humming at home.”

Many concerts and parades later, when it came time for Eric to move on to high school, we shook hands, and I wished him luck and said that I hoped he would continue playing the trumpet.

I was saddened to learn that he had dropped music in high school, choosing instead to take up wrestling. For most kids, it’s either music or sports, and sports usually wins. This was a refrain I have heard often over the years. From another parent: “My son played music in Riordan High School’s excellent music program until football took over and he had no more time for music.”

In the card, Eric’s mom related that after three years of high school wrestling, he was forced to stop in his senior year due to an injury. Because he couldn’t wrestle any longer, she decided to see if she could rekindle his interest in music. She bought him a guitar and a few lessons as a Christmas present. His mom wasn’t sure how he was going to respond, but as he opened his present, he told her that he had always wanted to learn the guitar.

He continued to play after the initial lessons finished and then bought an electric guitar as well. After a pause of three and a half years, music had reentered his life and he was happy to be playing again. His mom was happy too, seeing something of her son’s cheery younger days return.

Eric’s mom concluded the card, writing, “[Eric] is musical and the best thing is that he started humming again. He always was a happy kid and hummed all the time. That stopped 9th, 10th, 11th and up to Christmas [of 12th grade]. School was so stressful. He didn’t have music in his life, but he does again. I share this with you because you planted the seed.”