Call to the Colors

Call to the Colors

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I played the call to the colors.

For some reason, the principal of Calvert Street Elementary School had decided we should start each day with a bugle call and flag-raising. I’m not sure why; maybe he was an ex-soldier.

In any case, I was selected to play the bugle call, which is why I found myself standing on the playground one chilly winter morning holding my trumpet, with a microphone set up in front of me.

The student body was spread out before me, playing hopscotch and tetherball and four square, waiting for school to start. The bell rang, and they stopped abruptly. (In fact, they were required to “freeze” wherever they stood. This curious directive was one of many handed down by that same principal, a man who surely went on to do well in the school district bureaucracy.) In the silence that followed, I raised my horn and played the call to the colors. A few of the notes were fuzzy, but, all things considered, it went well.

For the next two years I repeated that performance every school-day morning. I was embarrassed at first, but then one day I was struck by a remarkable thought: I was famous. The teachers, the students, the staff—everyone knew me. I was the kid who played the bugle.

Like all celebrities, I had my detractors. Some kids, critics in training, were quick to point out my mistakes, in case I hadn’t noticed. Others tried to distract me by making faces. One boy stood in front of me every day for a week sucking lemons, having heard that this causes trumpet players to pucker up and stop blowing. The celebrity played on through it all.   

My fame extended even beyond the school grounds, because, as you might guess, the sound of an amplified trumpet carries a long way. Looking back on it, I wonder if people on our block realized that the boy playing the bugle call was the same one who tormented them every afternoon by practicing with the window open.

There was one person who didn’t mind a bit. My mother, bless her, would step outside each morning at precisely seven-thirty and listen with pride as her famous son serenaded the neighborhood. She was a fan, the very best fan, and always was.

You can read more about my musical adventures in “Chops: Searching for Strength in a Trumpet.”


Blog: Music