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January 24, 2021

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Rick Emmert: "In the midst of that halftime show suddenly my right hand drumstick broke"

For more information about "Bluffton Anthology" click here.
Rick Emmert writes: 

In the fall of 1964, I was a lowly freshman in high school playing saxophone in Miss Souder’s marching band, the product of her initiative from the previous year, which we affectionately called “sax lessons” to train some of the clarinet players to play saxophone during the fall marching band season to give the band a stronger sound.

We would then switch back to clarinet during the concert band season. Several weeks into our rigorous marching band season, the senior bass drummer had a dispute with Miss Souder and suddenly quit the band.

We were left without that important role whose forceful beat basically kept the band together as we marched through our various formations. For some reason, I was asked to take on this role. Unlike now, at that time I was quite slim and thought there must be someone who would be more solidly built who could carry that heavy bass drum.

Why was I chosen, I wondered? Maybe I wasn’t that good a saxophone player. Likely there were others who could have done the job but were more valuable than me at their own instruments. In any case, I was tasked with the job and somehow proved strong enough to carry both the drum and the beat. Though our performances were usually at Pirate football games on Friday night, one Saturday afternoon we were asked to play the halftime show at the Bluffton College Beavers’ home game at Harmon Field.

The bass drum is of course two-sided so it is played alternatively with sticks in both hands. The drummer needs to play the strokes with both hands equally strong. In the midst of that Beavers’ halftime show suddenly my right hand drumstick broke.

There I was forced to play what had been a beat going back and forth from right hand to left hand now all with my left hand. I somehow was able to get the good remaining drumstick into my stronger right hand without destroying the rhythm of the entire band and managed to play the rest of the show with that hand. But it wasn’t easy as my right hand tired with the extra work, and I soon realized that my right hand knuckles were occasionally hitting the drumhead.

When we finally got off the field, I could see that blood from my knuckles had been spattered across the drumhead. I wiped off what I could but the following week noticed that there remained a small but noticeable dried patch of blood on the drumhead. It stayed there for the rest of the season.

The following year I was back to playing saxophone and clarinet. But occasionally I looked at the bass drum and realized that the blood patch remained. In fact it remained up through my senior year. I’ve always wondered if anyone eventually washed off my DNA from that drumhead.

And I sometimes wonder if it could possibly still be there 50 years later?

This is a sample of the content of "Bluffton Anthology - A creek runs through it." Copies are now available for $24.95 plus tax in Bluffton at:
• Roots by Strattons
• The Food Store
• The Black Lab
• Bluffton Senior Citizens Center
• The Dough Hook
• Polished