adjudicationNovember 10, 2007
Drearily, I nod my head back and forth as I drift into what one student called “cat napping.” I called it a valiant battle for consciousness that I was losing with each mile marker we passed. I’m quite tired, and it something I do to myself, and it something I do constantly. I’ve stated it before, but I hate sleep. Sleep, while I’m starting to maybe change my mind, is a boring wasteland of down-time. During sleep, you can’t improve a video game record, you can’t read a book, you can’t talk to a friend, you can’t seduce a stranger, and you can’t ever catch up, so why bother? Okay, so I’m a fool.
Today, previous to the nodding, I was sitting quite alert in a classroom desk at my old high school, doing something I’m growing a bit fond of: adjudicating. For those of you who don’t know what adjudicating is, its what Simon Cowell does for American Idol, its what farmers do every spring. I sat in a room and listened to seventh, eighth, and ninth grade boys and girls demonstrate to me they were above the cut on a small selection of saxophone music. Those that were indeed above it are not going to be attending All-District Honor Band in December. I did it in junior high and high school, and it was typically a blast. Or at least I think it was a blast. There is usually a dance at these things. I think I tried to avoid the dances. Or maybe the people at the dances. I don’t remember. Strange.
Anyway, the greatest part of the day was working with the other judge. He’s a kind old gentleman from the town that bombarded our half-time at last night’s. (side note: the band was gonna do the normal half-time routine, but suddenly, the band from the other team showed up and we had to extend the half-time show just to keep them from throwing a bitch fit.) He’s was just smiles and kind words, and we sat down, started into things, and low and behold, we were listening for the same stuff as the other one. If a kid sounded like a buzz saw more than a saxophone, we both thought that wasn’t so good. When I kid tried to sing his sound with even the lightest hint of vibrato, we counted it good. Missed articulations, botched pitches, uncalculating rhythms: all misnomers for lack of preparation, and we counted it against them.
We were delightfully brutal and playfully forgiving about these kids. These are kids that have been playing saxophone for only two or three years, and playing an instrument is hard work, folks. We tried to do our best, but the most important part, for me, was how close I was to his scores on so many things. It was like having a telepathic link, and it all boiled down to me feeling justified as a musician. I really did know what I was listening for. This man who has been teaching for over thirty years hears the same stuff as me, and openly admits, “I like working with you.” What a guy. What a guy.