Yesterday, I was sitting here listening to my cat lick himself—it's an unpleasant sound like a heap of wet noodles being squished around a big pot—when the phone rang. Small Town Newspaper wanted me to cover a story at the high school, if you could call it a story. I suppose it is.
The football team is in the playoffs, and some students have an extraordinary way of showing team spirit. They call themselves the Shirtless Men. They go to all the games regardless of weather with no shirts but with letters painted on their chests that spell out the name of the school. If they have enough boys lined up, they spell out something inspirational, like "Let's Go Small Town." The Shirtless Men are a tradition that has passed on from class to class so that there are now alumni.
These boys are excited for Friday night's playoff game and wanted to tell their story, so two of us were sent to talk to them—one full-time reporter was there to talk to the main group, and I was there to talk to the guy who carries the flag. We interviewed them and took pictures and walked away.
It was while we were walking away that I learned this other reporter plays the flute. I never knew. She's good, too, I assume, because she plays in an orchestra south of here that is associated with a college, and she's friends with a horn player I know. We had the nicest chat there in front of the high school, and I drove home thinking how there must be hundreds of people around here in a variety of vocations but who make music their avocation.
Like with most creative endeavors, music is a difficult field for people to earn a living in outside of teaching, and even then it's tough. So, it's no wonder people take other jobs and let music be the thing they do after 5:00. I've heard musicians say that turning music into a job can suck the joy out of it, like making it an obligation that wears on you over time.
I once met a woman who managed her husband's business—he made and sold fonts for designers—but she was a horn player in an orchestra. I told her I was a volunteer in an orchestra and a summer band, and when she heard how enthusiastic I was about the whole thing, she said she misses that exuberance. She blamed the profession of horn playing for making it feel more like a job than a joy.
I wonder if the newspaper would be interested in a column that unearths all the local off-the-job musicians out there. Hmmm.