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AND THE BAND PLAYS ON

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AND THE BAND PLAYS ON

You prepare for this milestone all your life, but when the day of retirement finally arrives, you are slammed in the face with the reality of it all. I know this is true because I’ve seen H moping about for the last few weeks as that date which seemed so far away last year is now on top of him.

He sits quietly, gazing off into space with something bigger on his mind. His thoughts, I’m sure, are on what he’s accomplished and the legacy he’s leaving behind. He’s given his love of music to so many over the years through his career of teaching and always hoping they carry it with them the rest of their lives.

There will be no more early morning or late afternoon rehearsals in his preparation for competitions or festivals with students itching to leave and their parents grumbling because he kept them waiting.


Gone are the days of rewriting music and marching shows to cover all parts because of limited instrumentation. Then at the last minute his only trombone player drops out or he suddenly loses his number one percussionist two weeks before the big concert and the process starts all over again.

Everyone  plays a solo in a small band. There’s no one to take up the slack in hard times so he rearranges, deletes, and improvises, then it’s on with the show!   

There will be no more sleepless nights before the big performance worrying about whether he’s pushed hard enough so they will all remember to breathe, tongue, or slur on the right measure, while playing musically because judges insist on it and it’s a big portion of their performance.  Will their tone quality, pitch, and counting be above board? Will they keep good interval and all be together on that ending visual that was added at the last minute?


The days of haggling with students to ‘stay in band because music will take you somewhere if you let it’, will always be in the forefront of his mind because he wanted more for them than they could have every wanted for themselves.

They gave him guff – he threw it right back. He was hard on them. He was hard on himself. He encouraged pride and praised for a job well-done and compensated often because of the small numbers, allowing them occasional time off from after school rehearsals for part-time jobs or for college classes when they were dual enrolled. Even though this threw off his rehearsals without his key players always present, he did what he had to do to recruit, teach, and instill the love of music in them and keep them on board.

I’ve always told him on the night before performances as he paced and fretted, “The ball’s now in their court. You’ve done all you can do.”

He still worried, lost sleep, and probably prayed. They always came through for him and for themselves while shining like stars in the night and grabbing that superior rating they’d all strived for. They made him proud of each and every one.


The middle of June will roll around this year and he will get antsy, as he always does, about the new show, the numbers, and the instrumentation, not taking into account it’s not his baby anymore. He will be at a loss for a while and it will take some time to get in the mindset that he’s handed the reins to another. ‘The Box’ will go in storage or shoved under the bed to be pulled out at a later date for the memories.

The afternoons can now be spent at the beach instead of on the field.  His weekends will be his own, free of marching festivals and competitions. He talks of sitting out a year and then going back into the rat race. I believe he will do just that because of the compassion and love he has for the music programs in schools.


He fears, as we all do, the music programs will fall by the wayside, ending up at the bottom of the pile of electives on next years class schedule.

If he has instilled the love of music and the passion for teaching in just one student, I believe all those years have been worth the dedication, hard work, and effort he poured into it.

~Elle

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About Elle Knowles

Elle Knowles lives in the Florida Panhandle with her husband and off-at-college-most-of-the-time son. She has four daughters, one son, and eleven beautiful grandchildren. 'Crossing the Line' is her first novel. The sequel 'What Line' is a work in progress. Recently published is Coffee-Drunk Or Blind - a nonfiction story of homesteading in the Alaska wilderness with her parents and four siblings, told through letters by her mother and remembered accounts from the family.

21 responses »

  1. Heartwarming story. I have witnessed the pride on the faces of my son’s teachers throughout the years and was almost as happy for them as I was of my young musician.

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    • It’s an art to be able to teach in any field! I have high regards for most teachers!

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      • It must be especially fulfilling for music teachers when their young students pursue music as a career. To know that you influenced that. I remember when, during a parent-teacher conference, I told the teacher that my son was planning to apply to music conservatories. He said, “Well, I ‘ll expect a lot more from him then.” The bar was set high. Sorry, kid:-)

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        • Yes it is. H is so proud when that happens but especially proud because his son chose that field, though he is glad that he wants to exceed toward a higher degree of teaching than just k-12. He knows what a difficult job that is. Andrew is getting his masters in performance so he will have more options.

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  2. Well, it’s been a year since this was written. I’m wondering how your husband is doing now. I’m a former educator (school guidance counselor) and have seen many of my friends stay out for a small time and go back in to “double dip” as they say. My kids and our lives were so enmeshed with the music programs from 5th grade on through a couple of football seasons in college. What a fun ride. Becoming a music/band family with the other kids and parents at competition after game after concert. Music is a hard one to give up. I’d think harder than teaching trigonometry but what do I know. Some people are obsessed with math. So, I hope he and you are doing well with retirement or whatever is happening now.

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  3. Reblogged this on Finding Myself Through Writing and commented:

    It’s been an interesting year trying to get into the swing of retirement with one of us retired and one not. Taking it easy after so many years of punching that time clock isn’t an easy task. My space was invaded and I had to learn to adjust with H underfoot everyday but he had to adjust to not having a schedule or routine to adhere to. Teaching private lessons three afternoons a week, and taking a theory class at the local college has kept him in the game….

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  4. (4th paragraph from the bottom… I’d use the other reins, not reigns…possible typo alert) – I read a book on three stages of older life, that is, after retirement, by a geriatric psychiatrist. It was very interesting. He wrote about people who do and don’t plan for retirement: and I see some people trying to do their whole bucket list the first year and others who just want to be quiet for a while…….lots of styles….

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  5. The hardest thing about retirement is letting go of the things that ruled your life for so long.

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  6. Your husband has much to be proud of. His transition to retirement may be a bit rocky but I’m sure he’ll put the same energy and thoughtfulness to his new “career.”

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  7. Change is always hard yet more often than not, turns into a friend. It helps to see how full the glass is and yours is always spilling over. H is very lucky 🙂

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  8. Tish Knowles

    I know it is bitter sweet for him. He has had many years of joy and turmoil in education, and especially music education. I pray he takes time to enjoy life! Maybe you can spend some much needed time together and work on projects left undone.

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  9. Sounds like your husband enjoyed his chosen career path. That’s awesome Hope he finds some enjoyable things to do in retirement.

    Transitions can be hard. But change is inevitable . . .

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