Song Of The Day 2/16/2017: Frank Erickson, composer – “Blue Ridge Overture”

The Final 42

Lack of Progress Report

I’ve been at this a week now. I was really hoping I’d be out of high school at this point. I’m just now getting out of elementary. Egad. I don’t like spending this much time in states of reverie. Reminiscing isn’t my thing anymore. I’m much more at ease making stuff up. I don’t really have any reason except My Debt To You, The Reader, and bringing this five-year collie and Shetland show to a meaningful end.

The other complex I’m nurturing is, well, the end. Even though I do have a vision for continuing the blog after this series concludes, there’s a bigger sense of the terminal that’s hanging around, and this kind of activity sort of maximizes it. So does the weightlessness of our current political situation. Also, I work on the 27th floor overlooking Elliott Bay, and on certain days during certain conditions it looks like the edge of the world, and all my paranoia about dying or being rendered motionless comes back to the fore. It’s a bit unnerving, isn’t it?

So yeah, I’m getting anxious to move this thing along. We got six weeks left. Christ. Apologies if it ever seems like I’m feigning enthusiasm. I’m sure I’ll feel more relaxed on the weekend.

And we are moving out of elementary school at least.

Milking It at Louis Pasteur Middle School

In seventh and eighth grade I went to Louis Pasteur Intermediate School in Orangevale. At least I know what he did.

There were two intermediate schools in Orangevale that were nearly architectural copies of each other: Louis Pasteur and Andrew Carnegie. They looked almost exactly the same. The architect in question had something for curvy roofs. I’m wondering how much money the San Juan Unified School District saved by having the same blueprints for two entirely different schools. I suppose there are worse ways to save money.

Nowadays, of course, you could never name your school after famous scientists. You’d have to pick a corporate religious figure or a motivational speaker.

Pasteur was where I had to change into a uniform for P.E. class. I didn’t care for that. The school team nickname was the Tigers, so our colors were orange and… actually, I just remember the orange. There was a lot of orange around there. Blinding orange. Blinding orange gym shorts that had those slit-like recess up the sides. Very Dazed and Confused type stuff.

We also had intramural teams at Pasteur. Each of us were assigned to a team named after a lesser cat than the Tiger. I was a Cougar. We also had Ocelots and Jaguars, and probably Panthers. I’m guessing. If I’m wrong I hope some alumni can chip in. We all played against each other in sports-type situations. We had a flag football tournament, I think. The Cougars won one game as I recall. I ditched the team at that point.

There was one traumatic life event at Pasteur that could have affected the trajectory of my existence more than I thought it did, I suppose. I was enrolled in algebra in eighth grade. There was only one class devoted to it, though, and there were too many students for the classroom, so they had to reduce the student size. To do this they gave everyone a math test. I didn’t make it through the entire test because I was double-checking every problem to make sure I was right. I got 100% of the answers I gave correct, but only finished 60% of the questions.

So I finished in the bottom tier. I explained my predicament to the teacher, and he calmly explained that I “didn’t have the speed necessary to conduct algebraic calculations.” I don’t think math and I ever really got along again, at least not as well as when I was a kid.

I also bowed out of the advanced English course in eighth grade because of an oversized class. This time I volunteered to go to a lower class level. I suppose it should have concerned me that I was taking the easy way out. Unfortunately I did not learn my lesson, since I scored a 5 on the AP English test after high school. I skated through as far as I’m concerned. Hey, now I understand the current administration!

I did, however, absolutely slay in typing class. It wasn’t even close. I was the Usain Bolt of the QWERTY keyboard. I was also great in home ec. I could have been a nanny. Maybe even, dare to dream, an au pair.

Ghastly Mellow Saxophones All Over the Floor

Pasteur was where I let it get out, amongst my peers anyway, that I played music. Not in seventh grade, but in eighth.

Hey, here’s a fun fact not many people know about me: I used to play alto sax. I took it up to get into concert band. I wanted to play piano in the Pasteur jazz band, but another pianist (I think it was my long-lost friend Anne) got the bench before I even knew there was a jazz band at Pasteur. So I  went into concert band instead, and took up alto sax.

I don’t remember how I learned alto sax. I don’t remember if somebody instructed me after school, or if I taught myself. I was serviceable. I was at least as good a sax player as Van Morrison when he played that sax solo in “Call Me Up in Dreamland.” (Not a career highlight for Van.) I was second alto sax player, behind Shelly. As you might have guessed, there were only two alto sax players.

There’s a wide gulf between playing in the band in intermediate school and high school. We played very few, if any, songs that people knew. Most of the tunes we played were written by other music educators primarily for the express purpose of having them played by intermediate school music students.

Today’s SOTD is one of those songs, “Blue Ridge Overture” by a man named Frank William Erickson. He was from Spokane apparently. You probably have never heard “Blue Ridge Overture” unless you (a) were in Frank Erickson’s family, (b) were in an intermediate concert band, in which case you heard it every damn day, or (c) attended an intermediate concert band concert, in which case it’s almost as if you’ve never heard it because you can’t remember a thing about it. I know you don’t.

I didn’t even remember “Blue Ridge Overture.” The name popped into my head literally fifteen minutes ago, when I started this section and was still trying to figure out what today’s song would be. Like every school-targeted composition for intermediate big bands written by music educators, you’re gonna get a lot of trumpets.

This recording also nails the intermediate school concert band experience, too—slightly out of tune, varying degrees of enthusiasm, the elongated agony of the cymbal player as he awaits the one part of the song where he gets his fluttering moment of stardom: the end. But unfortunately he has to compete with the trumpets, who are also discovering hormones.

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