Every Great Band Director Forms Amazing Concerts

January 3, 2019

I write this column with a heavy heart. On Christmas Eve day my dear friend and teaching colleague, Nate Metschke, passed away while undergoing surgery to remove a tumor from his liver. Nate was the band teacher every kid deserved, and he brought joy and laughter to everyone who knew him.

Not only did I teach with him, but he also taught my children, and for a number of years I coached his flag corps girls. Readers of this column may remember a few years back when the Oktoberfest parade in Norfolk experienced a sudden deluge – we were marching together in that downpour, but not once did the students stop marching or stop playing or stop twirling their flags. We marched proudly onward because we were with Nate Metschke.

I have just returned from his celebration of life service which was held in our school gymnasium, a room that Nate helped to fill on many musical occasions. Tonight the gym was filled like it’s never been filled before, all with people who loved Nate.

In addition to the mourners, there were about sixty-five area band directors and fellow musicians who filled the stage to play music in Nate’s honor, and they were conducted by Nate’s high school band director from Chambers. I sat there watching those people, tears streaming down my face, and I was in awe.

With nary a practice, they came together and played absolutely beautiful music. Each of their instruments were like words on a page that come together to form beautiful passages in short stories, lovely stanzas in poems, dramatic moments in plays, and gripping chapters in novels.

They were able to do this because at some point in their lives a band teacher like Nate taught each of them to read music just like I was once taught to read words, and with those few notes they, and every other musician, can make sense out of sheets of music the way I can make sense out of pages in a book.

I had a couple pretty great band teachers when I was younger and learning to play the flute and the oboe, and one of those men, Jack Fisher, was on stage tonight playing for Nate. Sadly, I didn’t keep up with my music reading the way I’ve done with my literature reading, so I no longer know how to read sheet music, but at the very end of the service many of Nate’s current and former students joined the other musicians on stage, and one of them was my daughter. She played our school’s fight song along with many other band students who had the good fortune of learning to read music from Nate Metschke.

When you first learn the music note scale, they will often teach you to remember it with a phrase like Every Good Boy Deserves Fun And Chocolate or Every Good Boy Deserves Fries And Cake or something else to help you with the order of the notes – E G B D F A C. In Nate’s honor, I’d offer up this phrase: Every Great Band Director Forms Amazing Concerts.

May the music play on for my dear friend, and may these words be read by those who loved him.

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This month’s reading selection is “The Keepers of the House” by Shirley Ann Grau.

Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com.

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