Mark Terry

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


November 4, 2008
Fiction, we're told, is all about choices.

So is life. Last night we went to my son's high school band concert. All three high school bands, the Varsity, Concert, and Symphonic bands played and they were all good (actually, the top band, the Symphonic, was a lot better than good).

When I was in high school, I was a big music guy. I played saxophone in the symphonic band and jazz band and in the orchestra, where I also played bells when the percussionists needed an extra set of hands. I played piano and I taught both piano and saxophone. Most people assumed I'd be a music major and when I went and majored first in medical technology and then microbiology, most people were surprised.

It wasn't a good decision and the reasoning behind the choices were complicated, but let's just say that my brother had been a music major (and, in fact, was getting his PhD--or more precisely, DMA, which is Doctorate of Musical Arts--in music theory and composition at the University of Texas at the same time I was getting my BS in microbiology and public health at Michigan State University) and my mother in particular was wildly opposed to this and I got exposed to that for 6 years prior to going off to college.

As you know, I discovered I really wanted to be a writer about 4 years later and we know how that story ended.

Anyway, when my oldest son started marching band in high school this year (he's also in jazz band and in concert band and he plays guitar, in fact, he plays bassoon, guitar and saxophone), my wife and I got involved in the band boosters and we both chaperoned a night at the marching band camp. Leanne asked me why I didn't major in music and become a high school band director. Part of it was Mom, certainly; part of it was that in high school I was much more interested in piano than sax and didn't really think I wanted to spend the rest of my career teaching kids piano from 4:00 in the afternoon to 10:00 at night with all day Saturday and probably do church organ or something similar on the weekends. There's some irony in this because, after all, I do spend most of my day in a small room, only by myself.

Last night, we picked up our youngest son at the pool where he's in swim club and walked through the high school to the auditorium for the concert and I suddenly had another thought. I told Leanne: "Actually, another reason I didn't major in music was I was so eager to get away from high school that I couldn't imagine spending my whole career working in a high school."

That's definitely true. However, I would point out that I probably would have really enjoyed being a high school band director.

So we make a lot of choices, for better or worse, and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't, and sometimes the ship manages to steer itself back toward its true direction. That's how I feel about being a writer, actually. That I majored in science and took science jobs because someone else was steering the ship, but the ship kept wanting to go back on a different heading. And I finally yanked the controls away and let the ship get back to the direction it needed to go.

Anyway, here's the first movement of a symphony the Symphonic Band played last night (different band, same piece), called "The Divine Comedy."

Mark Terry


Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

and we know how that story ended

No we don't! The script is still being written!

6:29 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Well, yeah, and hopefully we're somewhere in the beginning to early middle, not near the end.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Stephen already covered my first point.

It is interesting to think what other paths we might have taken. I went to law school because I couldn't find a job with my English Lit degree and I discovered law schools actually liked English Lit majors. After being rejected again and again it was nice to feel wanted.

Having made that huge mistake I at least decided correctly to become a legal writer rather than a lawyer but going to work at a corporation was a horror. I suppose spending a lot of time in courts would have been even more horrible.

Ideally, I should have gone on to get advanced degrees in English and stayed in an academic environment. (Not that I had the finances or that there were jobs in that area then) Colleges and universities are some of the few refuges in our society for people who value knowledge, kind of like monasteries in the middle ages. I would've been happier in a milieu of like-minded people. Luckily now there's the Internet.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

My brother and his wife are both college professors and I suspect--except for the pay--I would have been very happy in that environment. Unless you're at a big university the pay and benefits pretty much suck. Hey, wait... I have NO benefits.

8:17 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I was going to say exactly what Stephen said. Your story has just begun!

I think the only choice I would make differently would be a few financial tweaks. If I had been given a choice whether or not to get sick for most of my twenties, obviously I would have chosen not to, LOL. I could never work in a university, although I would have been happier teaching at that level. I'm not a political/shmoozer sort of person. I hate the insecurity of self-employment, but it's totally me.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the story. :-)

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we all wonder "what might have been."

What's cool is that you've had some great options, and a number of interests/passions. And although music isn't your career now, it can be a wonderful hobby/past time--and something you can share with your son. I know so many adults who don't know what they want to be when they grow up, who are still struggling to find their path.

9:46 AM  
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