I was in grade eight when our school got its first band program. Gerry Rutten had moved to the area, decided Englewood should have a band, and generously spent his Saturday mornings trying to teach us how to play. At first, I had been pretty resistant to the idea of joining the band – OK, dead set against it. I was at that age where peer acceptance was supremely important, and having just quit the ukulele for that reason, I wasn’t eager to pursue music any further. My mom can be very persuasive however, and I finally agreed to join on one condition – I would only play the drums. Fate had other ideas though, and when we arrived on the first day, another kid showed up with his own drumset that he’d gotten for his birthday. When Gerry informed me that I would have to choose something else, I pointed to the trombone on the floor, and grumbled with contempt, “I’ll take that.” (to which he excitedly replied, “I knew you would pick the trombone!” – Go figure…). Once I figured out how to produce a sound on the damn thing, I caught on pretty quickly and, to my surprise, actually started to dig it. Since I was the only kid who had chosen a bass clef instrument, Gerry would give me the parts for euphonium and bassoon as well as trombone, and I would spread them all out over 2 or 3 music stands and jump from one part to the other, playing the most important passages. A few weeks later, when little drummer boy quit, I had already embarked on what would become a lifelong obsession with the trombone, and the rest is history.
Looking back over my life, there are certain pivotal moments that make me stop and wonder how differently things might have turned out. In what direction would my life have gone if that kid had simply gotten a bicycle for his birthday? If Gerry Rutten had moved to Hunter River instead of Victoria? If I had stuck with the ukulele? (Scary thought!) Such simple little things can propel one onto a completely different path. Well, I like the path I ended up on that day in Grade 8, and although there have been some pretty big cliffs to scale, and some pretty slippery slopes, it’s been a fun trip. I’ve met some great hikers on this path and experienced some breathtaking scenery, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend.
I chose the trombone because the trombone players in the marching band got to be up front with the majorettes (because of the slides) and I loved that! – Quincy Jones