My mom told this story over and over. Each time, her animated expressions resonated like a small child opening presents on Christmas Eve. She was the self-appointed chaperone in my dad’s high school band. She, along with other parents, drove budding musicians to their state band festivals, district contests, and national marching, concert and sight-reading extravaganzas, which were often hosted on university campuses. Her recounting of those pilgrimages were flooded with anecdotes, which she relished sharing.

One story rose above the rest.

“Do you remember when…” she would repetitiously begin, “…the band was playing in the district contest in Dodge City? If they took first place, they would go to Colorado Springs to the nationals in May, only one month away. It was lots of pressure on the kids. They had practiced so hard and wanted to win so badly. Jake had selected a very challenging number for their finale. I’m sure you remember Donny Shepherd. Well, he was a fine brass player, and this number had a very difficult baritone solo in it. It started very low, and then climbs slowly to an extremely high pitch. In practices he often could not hit that last note. It was so hard for him. My hands were wringing wet every time he began his solo.”

I beamed inside as I witnessed her zest to invite us on this storytelling journey. She continued.

“The band played with such precision and blended tones that day. Then came the last number. I’m still not sure why Jake selected it, but I just trusted his judgment–poor Donny!”

Taking a deep breath and gesturing with her hands, mom stumbled for more words.

“I spotted Donny through the French horn and trombone sections. I…um, just wanted to nod at him with a warm smile. Jake waved his baton in a downward motion. The band stopped. There was a brief moment of silence. Donny began. I knew the first part of his solo was the easiest. His sounds filled the auditorium. As he began to climb up the scale towards that high note, I could feel my body rising from my chair in unison with him.”

Mom would always pause her story, leaving the listeners wanting more.

“I had a silent visit with God, not knowing if it made any difference…but I did ask for Donny to hit that note. That’s all–just hit the note! Someone heard my words because Donny played that note like the angels blowing their celestial trumpets. He held the unbroken sound for at least three seconds.”

Reliving this captivating memory, she continued.

“I went backstage after the band finished. I hugged so many of the kids, all of them sensing they had played well enough to go to the national contest. There was Donny, leaning against the wall, with sweat dripping down his cheeks. He had loosened his tie and unbuttoned his woolen band jacket. As I approached him, he smiled so big at me. ‘Hi, Mrs. Dalke.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Oh Donny, you played the best you have ever played.’ Then he said, ‘Well, I knew if I didn’t hit that note–God would, and sure enough God did!’ And he slid down the wall in a dead faint.”

The story always warmed my soul. Don’t know if there was any theological significance wrapped around this frequently-repeated tale, but whenever I have needed bolstering in my life’s wonderings, I think of Mom, Dad’s band, and a young man named Donny–who hit the unreachable.

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