by Paula Ray
John’s mother said they’d never enroll a deaf person in band. She was wrong.
He got a standing ovation when he played one of the most difficult solos written for a high school timpanist.
All was going well, until his beloved band director, Mr. Linden, died in a car accident over Christmas break. The new director, Mr. Coker, was impatient and mean spirited. He ridiculed John for not following the music, saying things like, “The music isn’t written on my face. Follow the chart!”
John was demoted to one repeated rhythm pattern played on maracas.
He decided to face Mr. Coker and request a transfer out of band. When he walked into the band-room, the principal was there. Mr. Coker’s face was red, veins bulging on his forehead. He read Mr. Coker’s lips, “How am I supposed to teach a deaf guy how to play music? How many blind kids take art in this school? Give me a break!”
John marched over to the timpani drums, tapped the head of each and let the speed of vibrations guide him as he adjusted the pedals until each drum was tuned perfectly. He gripped the mallets properly and played the solo Mr. Linden had taught him. When Mr. Coker stomped his way from the podium to the percussion section, John made eye contact and smashed the skull of one of the maracas, imagining it was Mr. Coker’s head. Beads scattered across the floor as the principal applauded.