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A stern, yet understanding teacher makes space for a young drummer.

A young man in front of me began thumping intricate rhythms on a book with his fingers.   A moment later a kid down the row began doing some nice rhythms on his chest and legs.  Sitting in that concert hall at the University of Arkansas, I realized I was among kindred spirits.  A room filled with drummers!

Drum ensemble

Drum ensemble

This reminded me of Ms. Break, my 4th grade teacher (whom I loved….and feared).  She often scolded me for drumming on my desk.  I tried to be courteous by pressing my ear against the wooden top to amplify the sound while avoiding disturbing others.  The metal book box below the seat was a fantastic drum and offered a variety of tones depending on where and how it was struck.

timpani stroke

Years later I was playing timpani at the First Methodist Church in my hometown. Ms. Break hollered down from the choir loft with a laugh, “You never did stop that drumming!”   While she did scold me about drumming in her class, she never let little idiosyncrasies interfere with our relationship.  She made space for me to be who I was and that meant a lot.

I enjoyed seeing the percussionists warming up before the recital at the U of A but also enjoyed the informal and spontaneous rhythmic performances occurring out among the audience prior to the concert while thinking of my early drumming days.

Drummers are a strange breed!  You’ll rarely see trumpet players buzzing their lips or violinist bowing the air, but you can always spot a percussionist, whether a fourth grader, college kid, or adult.

Kelby, the reason for our attendance, giving an amazing performance in her junior recital.

Kelby, the reason for our attendance, giving an amazing performance in her junior recital.

“That-a-way, Bo!” Encouragement Makes a Difference

“That-a-way, Bo!”  Those words meant a lot to this freshman, unsure about his chances of success in college.  The memory of his high school counselor’s hesitancy about his college plans were still fresh and caused strong feelings of doubt.

Now, with the words “That-a-way” from the greatest musician he’d ever been around, the possibility of success seemed real – he was going to make it! There were some discouraging times during college, but this professor helped many students perform better than they ever thought possible.

He set high expectations and was relentless in holding to them.  He had the ability to move toward goals in spite of distractions.  He was a learner with his students even as this great man taught them.  He loved his work with such enthusiasm that the lines between work and play were often blurred.

Now, as a school principal and teacher, I am thankful for his influence.  He never set out to provide instruction on how to be a principal, but he taught many lessons and gave me confidence that I benefit from today.

When I am doing my most satisfying work, I sometimes feel like he’s looking over my shoulder saying, “That-a-way, Bo!”  There is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have done your best.  Mr. Wendell Evanson, my band director at Henderson State University, taught me this lesson.  I hope we can help every child learn the joy of work and a job well done.

Wendell Evanson and his former student having a visit.

Wendell Evanson and his former student having a visit.

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