My Life as a Musician: Stories from Eric Salazar
The Time I Got Locked in a Band Locker
I recently saw Pitch Perfect 2 with some fellow musicians. I highly recommend you go see it. The jokes are exquisite and if you regularly engage in music, there are extra insider jokes you will get. There was one specific moment of humor in the movie where my friends and I understood an insider joke. Unfortunately the rest of the moviegoers had no idea why we were raucously giggling.
As we were coming down from our hysteria, after the scene where the Bellas employ their voting method of “singing and Eb for yes, and a G# for no!” I noticed many of the people sitting in front of us were staring malignantly at our group. It was almost as if the people in front thought one of us had made a comment that caused our disruptive laughter. A shame, the others completely missed the humor of an augmented third harmony. What’s more, they couldn’t hear that [enharmonically] the Bellas should have created a harmony that sounds a Perfect Fourth but instead sang a major triad anyway. Tongue in cheek humor, I know, but still pretty funny to the educated musician.
This disconnect between two parties of moviegoers made me realize that more musical humor needs to be made public. As such, I will now share a humorous anecdote from my high school band career.
It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I went to a high school in central Indiana that participated in the Class A division of the ISSMA marching band season. I marched bass clarinet and I was the section leader. Obviously, as a 17 year old bass clarinet section leader of a Class A band, I pretty much knew everything there was to know about music. Yes, I was cocky. No, I didn’t take anything seriously. Yes, I was stupid.
July is the hottest month in Indiana, yet marching band reigns supreme during this time. My band director did an impeccable job of making sure we were inside working on music during the hottest part of the day. He also made sure we received enough breaks to have the energy to rehearse all day. The problem with 150 hyperactive teenagers being inside is: 150 hyperactive are teenagers inside. All in the same place. At once.
As a know-it-all class clown who took his leadership as seriously as he took his ability to make funny faces, you can bet I got into trouble. You may have also surmised that I led the underclassmen down a glorious path of mockery and trickery that included but was not limited to: “imitating” instructors while their backs were turned, jousting with music stands on breaks, taking instruments out of the mouth to yell obscenities at each other mid phrase, and the ever-hilarious “downbeat toots.”
Yes, I had a good time in band. This was primarily due to my ability to not get caught. I was not so lucky on this one particular instance.
I had a large locker because my bass clarinet case was too big for the normal bass clarinet lockers. My band locker back then was big enough to fit two standing up grown men inside. The low reeds and low brass were on break instead of having a sectional. Nothing out of the ordinary. We could play our quarter notes and whole notes from the show music, why practice? Naturally, we went to the instrument storage room to mess around because it was out of the way. We were free to mess around there, away from any authoritative gaze. Or so we thought.
I know not what outlandish desire possessed me to suggest that we try to fit as many people into my band locker as possible, but tried we did. We fit two freakishly skinny kids (myself and James) and two rather large kids into the locker (Jarrod and Elliott).
James was just as skinny as me, but about a head taller, much like a string bean. Back then, he had wavy light brown hair of medium length, the palest complexion, and rarely ever talked. He had a wallflower personality—we told James what to do all the time and he just went with it. He would say extremely powerful sentences like “Ok.” and “That’s funny.” James was always quiet and we messed with him for it. In fact, he was so quiet that people thought he was mentally handicapped. After getting to know James, a young lady clarinetist confided in him that she thought he was slow when they first met because he didn’t talk. We would poke fun at him for being shy. Yet, only we could mess with James. If anyone ever made fun of him for his social habits, we let them have it.
Jarrod was built like a low-rider pickup truck. He was stout, squat, black, and missing a neck. He wore a buzz cut and always had some sweet basketball shoes on. One of our favorite pass-times was messing with Jarrod to see how mad we could make him. The profanities he said during his outbursts were some of the funniest words I have ever heard. We called him “no neck” or “turtle.” We would tease him by saying “Wow. It must be hard for you to get your chin up for attention without a neck.” Or “Look at Jarrod turtlin’ over there!” I like to think that everyone got made fun of equally, but in reality Jarrod got the worst of it.
My best friend Elliott was at the height of his rugby career back then. Yes, he was like an ox, still is. Just a normal white kid with glasses, a big heart, and a humorous personality. We played an incomprehensible number of video games together. Every time I got into trouble, Elliott was right there with me. We egged each other on. We fed off of each other’s humor and stupidity. He never backed down from an argument either, even if he knew he was wrong. He also always backed his friends, even if they were wrong. One time, Elliott stood up to a bully after said bully picked me up and threw me in the hall.
When all four of us were crammed into the locker, we had someone from the outside shut the door “just to see if we really fit.” The people on the outside, naturally, pushed up against the locker so we couldn’t get out. We had the strength to open the locker from the inside, but since we were all contorted we just couldn’t get the leverage needed. We were stuck.
Then, Jarrod started cackling. At first, I guffawed with him, not knowing why he was laughing.
I asked, “What’s so funny Jarrod?” He merely laughed harder.
There was a brief moment of silence.
After the pause Elliott suddenly proclaimed, “Oh God. I smell it!”
“Jarrod, your turtle butt smells awful!”
I chimed in now, “JARROD! WHAT IS THAT?! DID YOU SHIT YOUR PANTS?”
James stoically wrinkled his nose and expressed, “That smells bad.”
Now we really had to get out of the locker. The stench was unbearable. James and I were trapped in the back and Elliott was in front. Jarrod was cackling the whole time so he was useless.
I said “Elliott. PUSH!”
He pushed the door and I pushed as hard as I could on his back. The door wouldn’t budge. The putrid smell was permeating to every crevice of the great locker. We were trapped in the gas, with no way out. Elliott and I were coughing, Jarrod was laughing like a hyena, and James was silent.
Just when I was about to give up hope. Just before I was going to resign myself to spending the rest of my life in a stinky band locker, the door suddenly gave way.
I pushed through in between my friends like a wriggling worm and yelled.
“Get me out of here!” I screeched.
Right in my band director’s face.
“ERIC SALAZAR. What. Are you doing back here?” he questioned, ice in his voice. The man was a true band director in his late thirties. His hair was balding and greying, he had a modest gut, and he knew how to glare in a way that made you want to crawl into a hole and stay there.
“Answer me.” He said with the glare.
“We were… Trying to see how many people we could fit in my locker.” I mumbled while dejectedly looking at the ground. If it was one thing I hated, it was getting caught.
“Why?” He questioned, curious to discover what logical reason motivated us to do this.
“I don’t know…”
“Because we wanted to.”
“Because. You wanted to.” He repeated in disbelief.
“My office. Now.”
I then followed him to his office, embarrassed and ashamed. I received a lecture on being a leader, on work ethic, on respecting school property and respecting each other, and the conversation ended in me losing locker privileges for the entire summer. Not my best moment as a person, but it makes for a funny story.
Do you have any funny memories from band?
Share your stories below!