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Friday, November 16, 2012

Visions of Light*

If you’re a regular leader of this blog you know I’m in the habit of providing titles in the form of a song lyric or title.  Today will be no different, other than that part of today’s entry will be a remembrance of my late high school band director, Carl Dephouse, so not just any title will do. I know you’ll understand why after you read this.

I first met Mr. Dephouse as a 7th grade general music student.  Our class met next door to the band room, and Mrs. Gamble sent me next door to get a couple music stands.  I opened the door and heard the band playing a familiar tune (Khachaturian’s Gayane Ballet), complete with the trombone glissandi.  I stood there, mesmerized by the 9th grade band that was playing that piece.  He stopped and looked at me; the band turned to look at me.  Silence. I just muttered something about the music stands, picked them up, and went back to my class, the music still ringing in my ears.

Fast forward to ninth grade band and time for MSBOA Band Festival.  We played San Mihiel  by Karl King, Festivo by Vaclav Nelhybel, and Chorale and Capriccio by Giovannini.  We earned our First Division rating, and felt good about ourselves--until we got home and Mr. D reminded us that we didn’t do our best.  Nonetheless, we went to states, playing the King, the Giovannini, and a new piece (to us)--the Hebrides Suite of Clare Grundman. We played our best, but received a “two” (I don’t care WHAT you say about Texas band directors, Michigan band directors live and die by their MSBOA ratings).

Why am I telling you about music I performed almost 40 years ago?  I’d be willing to bet you don’t remember what you played in high school concert band, but here’s a sampling of what we performed:

Holst--First and Second Suites
Howe--Pentland Hills
Sousa--Stars and Stripes Forever, Daughters of Texas
Alfred Reed--Russian Christmas Music
Haydn Wood--Mannin Veen
Zdechlik--Chorale and Shaker Dance
Holsinger--Prelude and Rondo
Vaughan Williams--Sea Songs
Alexander--Colossus of Columbia
Rodgers/arr. R.R.Bennett--Victory at Sea

The man chose music for us like a preacher chooses Bible texts for a sermon. To Mr. D, the quality of the music he presented to us and with us was the most important aspect of his job--and anything less than the best simply wasn’t good enough.  His choices made our band better and more importantly made us better people.

But even more important to him than his music, especially the  1961 Russia Tour with the U-M Symphony Band (which he loved to talk about--his stories about playing for William Revelli and his days playing sousaphone in the Marching Band with Gene Thrailkill were classic) was his deep abiding Christian faith.  He didn’t preach to us per se--although we did play a nice arrangement of Onward Christian Soldiers from time to time--but it spoke so plainly in his actions that words weren’t really necessary.   We never had evening rehearsals or concerts on Wednesday--“That’s church night” (for him as well as many of us).  Family was important to him, and grew to be more so as his family grew.  I even had the privilege of playing a few church gigs with him senior year, up in Holland Heights at a Reformed Church where my former (almost said old) 4th grade teacher Dorothy Bauman was choir director and soloist (we did something called “Night of Miracles” around Christmastime).

I knew him as a teacher, a fellow Wolverine, even as a colleague.  During my first few years out of high school, whenever I attended a music function and the conversation turned to our homes, I’d mention Holland, and people would knowingly smile and say, “did you play for Henry Vander Linde?”.  When I said no (which wasn’t precisely true--I did play a couple seasons in American Legion Band), I went to Holland High School and played for Carl Dephouse, they’d almost act disappointed.  They shouldn’t have.  I had the privilege of playing in a great high school band led by someone who cared deeply about the music and who inspires me to keep playing even today.

I learned of Carl’s passing at 3:00 pm on Thursday afternoon after a day of library conferences.  The time is significant because at 6:00 pm, I was scheduled to audition for the principal trombone chair in the orchestra I’ve played second trombone in for seven years.  Up to that point I hadn’t felt up to the task.  My solo sounded sloppy, and my excerpts ragged.  No matter.  After I recovered from the initial shock, it was clear what I had to do.  I packed up my horn and my music, went to my audition, and knocked everyone’s socks off on my solo (Visions of Light by Eric Ewazen) and the excerpts (Mozart Tuba Mirum, Mahler 3, Ride of the Valkyries,  and Bolero). 

Yes, the music matters.  Deeply.

Thank you, Mr. Dephouse. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Daniel J. De Kok Sr.
HHS class of 1978
Bachelor of Music, 1982, The University of Michigan
Master of Music, 1987, Western Michigan University
Acting Principal Trombone, Southeast Pennsylvania Symphony
Principal Trombone, Warminster (PA) Symphony
Principal Trombone, Doylestown (PA) Symphonic Winds

*--Eric Ewazen, Visions of Light: Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble inspired by the  photographs of Ansel Adams (2000).
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