Growing up in the Greenway school system in Coleraine, Minnesota, I look back on some precious memories - I treasure the ones I can remember today. You see, I was blessed to be in one school district in all of my thirteen years of elementary and secondary education. I love remembering the teachers, the activities, the school buildings, the events, and the students I grew up with throughout those years.
One of my thematic memories involves music. Greenway had what I would consider a relatively strong music program. From grade school to high school, learning to play in the band was a big deal. As I finished my senior year, I was playing trombone in the high school band. I also played in the local Mississippi Melodie Showboat Band, three local city bands, a local rock band (that played a lot of brass groups like Chicago), and even played in the Itasca Symphony Orchestra. Our high school band instructor, Tom Patnaude, was a trombonist who played for the Air Force Band and he was an excellent trombonist - he still is.
Mr. Patnaude was a bit ahead of his time. We had students who were arranging music that our pep band played, putting it light years ahead of the Dirty Dozen (from Int'l Falls HS) or our rivals to the west, the Grand Rapids Indians Pep Band. We made a record when I was a junior, something that in today's world would not be such a big deal. Back then, it was huge. I still have the 33 1/3 LP album packed away somewhere in the house. A few years ago, my sister Laura had a cd made of the record. It's awesome to be able to listen today to those sounds that were made by our high school band in the early 70's.
But as much as I loved the trombone and patterned my playing (in a poor man's way) after the example that Mr. Patnaude taught me, the trombone wasn't my first choice of instrument.
Surprised? Yeah, it's true. It started in the sixth grade when Mr. Patnaude came to our grade school and invited any interested students to begin to learn how to play by taking lessons. I was a drummer (or so I thought). My oldest brother Curt was a drummer and we were always in competition with each other, so why not? I can be a drummer - if Curt can be one, so could I. It was a relatively inexpensive instrument to take on. I only needed the practice book, a practice drum pad and a pair of sticks. I tried my best to learn how to hold the sticks properly. I tried my best to learn a simple drum roll. I tried my best to learn how to count properly. Sadly, I don't think my hands were as coordinated at that young age as I might have liked. Mr. Patnaude was a pretty patient teacher, but I could tell he didn't believe I would make it as a drummer. The next year, when I started band in seventh grade, he asked me if I would try to learn how to play the trombone.
Changing something like learning to play a musical instrument at an early age might not be a very big deal. It didn't happen overnight. I wasn't certain I had the right stuff to play it. But somewhere along the line, I started to practice a bit more and began to get better at it. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was getting a pass from my homeroom class to go to the music room and practice for an hour. Imagine that. Yeah, I got better. Practice will do that for a person.
So, now we are in a world that has changed. We couldn't have ever envisioned how a virus could have altered our way of life so drastically. Many of us are still wanting to play the drums when we need to take up a different instrument. And trust me, we will need to be disciplined in order to get better at this new normal. We will need to practice how to live in the new normal in order to thrive and live with joy and peace. Paul writes about this in his letters to the many places that he has been because people in all ages need to amp up their practice all the time. Here is what he wrote to the community in Philippi: "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:9.
Keep practicing the things that you have learned about your faith. If you need to learn more (which we all do) then find a way to learn more - because practice makes perfect.