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home : blogs_old : ability and accountability August 27, 2015

Ability and Accountability
By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ
"[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it."

-- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson

Monday, December 03, 2012

What my grandfather taught me with a trick trombone

 Richard Haddad

My grandfather, Ralph Ruland (far right), played trombone for big bands during the 1920s and 1930s.

When I was 11 years old, I remember my mother asking me to sit with her at the dinner table to look through a catalog filled with musical instruments. As she turned the pages she showed me all the different kinds of instruments I could choose to play in school. She told me of the wonder, beauty and power of music - and not just with her words, for I could see it in her eyes.

She is an accomplished musician, earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in music, as did my father, who is also a musician and well-known composer. Even now, at age 77, my mother plays professionally with several bands, including a 20-piece swing band of the most accomplished musicians. Her father, Ralph Ruland, played trombone with the great Sammy Kay Band, Blue Barron and other big bands of the 1920s and 1930s.

I enjoy hearing the stories of my grandfather's musical adventures. One story my mother shared is when he was asked to fill in for a musician with the circus that came to town.

During the performance, a clown came out holding a trick trombone. It had been cut and rigged so that the clown could pull a trigger, forcing a bouquet of fake flowers and water out of the bell. The clown ran around blasting the trombone and squirting other clowns in the center ring.

My grandfather had a great love for the trombone, even until the day he died. He could hardly restrain himself as he sat near my mother, then about 4 years old, watching this clown making a joke out of the instrument he so dearly loved and respected.

Finally, he could stand it no longer. Setting aside his own trombone, he leaped over the barrier separating the band from the center ring and approached the clown with an outstretched hand. The clown stopped and turned to see this determined-looking man in a band uniform.

Thinking this was part of the act, the spotlight operators put all lights on the two figures in the center ring. Not knowing what else to do, the clown handed the trick trombone to my grandfather who tore out the fake flowers, drained the water and lifted the horn to his lips.

My mother said she watched in amazement as her father began to play. The audience fell silent and the beautiful melody of "Sentimental Over You," a Tommy Dorsey classic, flowed from the lips of this master musician.

When he was done, the audience erupted in applause. When my grandfather tried to give back the trombone, the clown bowed in respect, indicating that he wanted my grandfather to keep it - which he did.

I am grateful for all those who love music and give of themselves to share it. Like my grandfather and his daughter, there are many in our community who are dedicated to the art. I thank the music teachers, the students and the performers who keep the arts alive in the quad-city area.

As Arizona residents, we all have a unique opportunity to support our school music programs through the Arizona School Tax Credit Program, A.R.S. 43-1089. It's an often misunderstood program, but here are the simple facts - you can write a check for any amount up to $200 (a couple filing jointly can contribute up to $400) to the Arizona school of your choice, and specify that you want the money to go to the music program. Then you get all of your money back as a tax credit on your tax return. The tax credit is available to anyone who itemizes on their state return.

You can also earmark your contribution to other extracurricular activities.

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the actual tax you owe. It's a wonderful way to put instruments in the hands of our local children and provide musical experiences that will last a lifetime. For a 2012 tax credit you need to have your contribution postmarked before December 31. See the links below to help make your contribution easier.

I am grateful for a mother who passed along the legacy of a grandfather so that I might better teach my children the power and beauty of music. I hope we will all take advantage of this Arizona tax credit program to build musical legacies right here in our own communities.

Related Links:
• Prescott Unified School District tax credit page
• Humboldt Unified School District tax credit page
• Chino Valley Unified School District tax credit page
• More school tax credited information from AZ Department of Revenue

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