Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Memories Of Ken White (High School Band Director)

Ken White was an interesting fellow: urbane, intellectual, overly-serious, insecure yet stern, pseudo-sophisticated, and at times even arrogant. He spoke with a unique speech impediment which simultaneously caused him to both stutter and to pronounce vowels with an omnipresent (and noticeably weak) Spanish accent.  

His personal style was anachronistic: although he was only about 30 years old, he behaved more like a 60 year old. 

He was not a particularly talented musician, but he excelled at marching band preparation and performance. He was more concerned with his students living the experience of marching band than he was with teaching the fundamentals of music. 

Most of the girls loved him; most of us guys couldn't stand him.

I once asked him, "So, Mr. White, did you go to De Anza College?" He sarcastically snickered, "I attended Deh-Awnza College, thank you very much. Where is this interesting-sounding 'Dee-Anza' College of which you speak located?"

Another time I asked, "Mr. White, do you play keys?" to which he snapped back "I play pee-awno, and I have no idea what these 'keys' are to which you refer."

When spring jazz band season came along (and the class had yet to commence), I inquired, "Mr. White, are we going to have jazz band class this year?" to which he replied "We are most certainly going to offer 'JAWS BOND CLOSS' this year!"

Whenever he lost his patience with one of us students, he would typically show his frustration by referring to us by our real names (to which of course, he had access)--even at times "calling us out," right there in front of the entire band. For example, when angry with me, he would call me David (rather than my preferred "Dave"); "Bean" would be called Abinadab, and "Trino" was referred to as Ruben, etc.

If a student used no nickname--but nevertheless fell temporarily under Mr. White's wrath--he would simply use that person's full name instead: For example, "Donald Hostetler" would become Donald Dean Hostetler and "John Cordova" was referred to as John Roberto Cordova.

And when he taught a new piece of music, he typically did so with such flare and bombast, that we couldn't help but become immediately motivated to perform it. For example, when he introduced us to "Russian Sailor's Dance (from The Red Poppy)" he did so by delivering the following speech to the entire marching ensemble:

"I have personally selected (and arranged) this rigorous piece of music--not because it is easy to learn--but for the opposite reason: It's extremely 'demawnding,' powerful, and difficult to learn. Upon learning this chart--and learn it well, you shall--you will then be on a par with the most elite high school marching 'bonds' in the entire state. Spend the necessary hours to memorize it, 'mawster' it, live it, and perform it. I wish you all the very best."

Like I mentioned, Ken White was an interesting fellow.

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