1.) Exercise - didn't go to the gym tonight, but that may be for the best as moving my arms at all causes me pain. Great pain, depending on how much I move them. Ow. Note to self: after not going to the gym for months, start slow, don't start by working out until you have trouble raising your arms above your head. (My legs, annoyingly, are still fine. I have yet to manage a workout that really leaves them in bad shape - I can only attribute this to my time spent fencing and doing martial arts - they were the only part of me that were in decent shape back then, and they're still in better shape than the rest of my body. By the time my upper body is screaming in pain my legs are just getting started. Did that sound bad? Maybe it did, I dunno.)
2.) The Spring Concert.
Within minutes of the "music" starting, my ears were bleeding and I was thrashing around on the ground, foaming at the mouth. All around me people were screaming and all I could see and hear was agony agony agony blood pain fear oh God oh God OH GOD HAVE MERCY!
Yeah, the school band is bad. Way, way bad. The school's instrumental instructor is a flying fuckhead, basically, and not only is he apparently incapable of teaching our children how to play an instrument, but he's also incapable of leading them in the so-called "playing" of said instruments. Considering the students were, on the high-end, 4th graders with - you guessed it - four years of experience "learning" from him, the fact that they could barely play simplified versions of things like Old McDonald's Farm and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was embarrassing.
Let's get one thing straight - Elementary School bands are not supposed to be good. They're supposed to be bad. This jerkoff, though, manages to raise bad to an all new level. I think if he locked the children in a room with the instruments, flooded it with water, dropped in piranhas, and then left them there for a week, they'd still end up knowing their instruments better than after he spent a year teaching them two times a week.
On top of that, the fucking moron, having done absolutely nothing useful to teach them, is forced to play along with them - AND PLAY PRE-RECORDED MUSIC OVER THEM - as they're playing. He hops on something like the snare drum, puts on a tape REALLY REALLY LOUDLY, and then proceeds to play the drums to the music while they try to struggle along with him. Of course, he can't even just settle himself for just keeping the beat on the drums; he puts in drumrolls and other pathetically easy flourishes, as far as I can tell just to remind the parents that he can play better than their children. I bet he lives in his mother's basement and spends the nights jerking off to Zildjian catalogs. I really loathe him. I don't understand how anyone can take a basically bright, happy bunch of children and turn them into flaming engines of sonic destruction. It just boggles my mind.
Anyways, after the agony subsided and my sight returned, the second part of the program began, which is run by the much more competent Mrs. Gross. In all fairness, despite her name, she's a little weird but not particularly gross.
She runs the chorus, the advanced chorus (Melody Makers), the recorder troupe (The Royal Recorders) and the Orff group, which is a group of students that learns how to play things like the xylophone and the pvc tube, apparently inspired by the teaching philosophies of Carl Orff. Look, I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.
Anyways, the good news is, she actually seems to do something with the children other than equip them with instruments of mass destruction. J is in the Melody Makers and Royal Recorders as well as the normal chorus, and I have to say, they were actually pretty good. They also meet twice a week, but they appear to actually practice using their instruments/voices during those meetings. They sang basically in tune and in harmony, even with multiple parts going on at once. While it wasn't mind-boggling, it was pretty good, and it was SUCH a relief from the band (you'll note of the things I've let J do, being in the band is not one of them). They sang some songs, then played some songs on their recorders, then the Orff group came out and banged on things, which all sounded basically the same. Finally, the entire chorus put on a performance of "Of Mice and Mozart", which was a cute little play/musical about the life of Mozart, seem partially through the eyes of the mice living in the walls of his house. The kids were really cute in their costumes, and they seemed to be having fun.
Lest anyone think I'm talking complete shit about all of this, as a disclaimer let me just say that I was a.) in the school band, b.) playing the piano, and c.) in the church choir as a child. I played drums in the band, and played the piano in competitions, and the church choir was not a stupid random one; we had a British choirmaster and did concerts and went on tour and such. My brother was, at that age, winning state-wide and possibly already nation-wide piano competitions. The point is, I know music, and more relevantly, I know what it's like studying music as a child and what potential there is. The band leader guy pisses me off because he's basically teaching these kids to be incompetent and proud of it, and the results were embarrassing. These are perfectly intelligent, capable kids, and there's no reason they should settle with pathetic just because they're young. They're 7, 8, 9... these kids are old enough to be really, really good at their instruments, and he does them a great disservice by not killing himself and by allowing himself to lead them down the path to less-than-mediocrity. The chorus teacher at least teaches them to be pretty decent, and is obviously much more rigorous in her training - but no less loved by the kids (in fact, judging by the cheers from the children when they announced her, they like her better). It doesn't surprise me - no one likes sucking, and she teaches them how to not suck. He apparently encourages them to suck harder.
Anyhoo, that was my night in a nutshell. I still ache (both my ears - nay, my very spirit - and my muscles).