I woke up with this in my head the other morning. Flash back to 1987.
Two years after picking up a trumpet for the first time, I found myself sitting in the band room of the middle school, learning to play versions of “popular” songs arranged for beginner/intermediate school bands, such as the theme from “Hill Street Blues” and “Eye of the Tiger”. Beginner/intermediate band meant all the fun things like syncopation were quantized to the nearest eighth note, and nary a sixteenth note or anything above high E on the staff to be found.
I didn’t think i was especially good at the trumpet at the time, and this was before the discovery of my having perfect pitch by another music teacher all but sealed my fate as a career musician. But it wasn’t long until I was moved up from Intermediate to Concert Band. That was a big deal, because normally students didn’t enter Concert band until sixth grade and I had just entered fifth grade, still enjoying such novelties as lockers and study hall. Not only was I good enough for the top-level band, but i started off sharing first chair with a seventh grader, who later took great pleasure in giving me ‘purple nerples’ and once made me cry for some reason I really don’t remember. He may have made fun of my Benetton rugby.
One of the first pieces in the concert band repertoire was a medley of all the songs from “Fame”. The medley’s finale, just like the movie’s final graduation concert, was “I Sing the Body Electric”, with a solo written in for the 1st chair trumpet. I can’t recall why B didn’t take it, but for some reason, I was now the youngest kid in the room taking it home, with the flautists in the front row craning their heads back to see who was interpreting the first verse:
I sing the body electric
I celebrate the me yet to come
I toast to my own reunion, when I become one with the sun
Outside of the piano recitals my sister and I performed in occasionally, this was my first taste of performing live. How fitting it was, that the song marked the triumphant close to the movie with hope; despite a suicide attempt, awkward baring of souls (and Irene Cara’s front end), clashing with teachers while hiding illiteracy, and everything else that comes with high school, the students of the NYC High School of the Performing Arts are sent into the world with bright futures and shitloads of hope. The last lines of the movie are sung by the choir:
And I’ll look back on Venus
I’ll look back on Mars
and I’ll burn with the fire of ten million stars
and in time, and in time,
we will all be stars.
A line which i’ll be sure to remember when i wake up in a couple hours for my day job.