Bruce Hilliard speaking. The leaves are falling, times are a-changin’ and I heard Mr. Wines took the coda. My most influential band director Mr. Wines passed away a few days ago. In music, a coda is a passage that brings a piece of music to an end. It may be as simple as a few measures, or as complex as an entire section. This guy was an entire opus, an epic rock opera for me and many others. Mr. Wines, one of my personal influences and motivators of my music career, passed last Sunday October 23rd 2022. He was 97. A long life for anyone. It deserved a long coda. He was the lifeblood of my music community…the Professor Harold Hill from The Music Man. And to think he was old by my standards when I had him in his late forties…what seems like a lifetime ago.
In my hometown Aberdeen WA, Hampton Rudolph Wines is a legend. He came to us as a young teacher from Eastern Washington, Pasco is the city I remember him mentioning. In Aberdeen he set a standard for excellence in everything from marching band, symphonic band, pep band, stage band, brass choir for Christmas, witty humor and other psychological mind games he messed us up with.
So, after working closely with him during some very formative years of my life, I’m writing a pod letter to my dear and recently passed high school band coach, teacher and visionary, Mr. Wines.
Dear Mr. Wines,
Thanks for the mind games. I say mind games in a good way. You knew what we were capable of and figured out ways to trick us into achieving it. You taught us as teenagers the importance of discipline and accountability. You preached respect for our instruments and uniforms and most importantly the attitude to carry it off with 100+ other students fueled mainly by fries and hormones.
You used signature phrases like “well this week is shot”, “moxie, intestinal fortitude” and if we sucked you encouraged us with suggestions like “you might as well take that horn and make it into a planter.”
The “this week is shot” speech was a landmark in my way of thinking everything, yes everything, is funny. Do you remember how 52 weeks per year could be shot year after year?
Every Monday morning sounded like this: Well today is Monday and the day is half shot already. Tomorrow will rain so we can’t rehearse on the field but we can stay inside but since it’s Tuesday we’ll be getting ready for Wednesday…and that day is shot. (And he’d be diagramming this on the chalkboard.) That leaves Thursday and Friday. Friday is the pep rally and game (actually the Friday concert at the football stadium). So Thursday is the only day of the week we can do anything…unless it rains. (Which it did.)
And Mr. Wines…I was apprehensive to visit you in your house on the hill later in life because when you’re busy you say “don’t bug me man.” I wonder what you think about the current educational system. I believe you took an early retirement when budget cuts hit the arts first. Many people were disappointed to see you retire.
Music was morphing into the rock era and in your lifetime went from Gershwin to Nirvana, from analog to digital and back. From formally educated musicians and composers to garage bands. Did you like my bands Denny and the Chadwicks and Tahola Toilet Authority?
Somehow those that followed your fundamentals went on to appreciate your white glove inspections. You literally wore white gloves during our periodic inspections of our gear. You commanded cosmetically perfect white marching shoes to march in the football field mud.
And hey Mr. Wines. While we’re on the topic of football, do you remember going Exorcist on me when I showed up at a varsity football game as a player and not a march geek? You said (at a high decibel level) that I didn’t tell you I was suiting up for football. Until then, you hadn’t explained the unwritten rule that the Friday night gathering at the football stadium was for a marching band show with a side of football. The Aberdeen football team was the opening act for the band. Band was everything and you were the hammer of the gods before Led Zeppelin.
Do you remember when you heard I played electric guitar and had a loud amp? You were into loud and the first thing you asked was “where's the volume knob?” My first thought was you wanted to know how to turn it down when I went into a Hendrix hair blowing solo. Not you. You wanted to turn it up.
You were firm and weren’t afraid to embarrass us in front of each other. You were flipped off more behind your back than most teachers but you got results. And damn. We were pretty good!
Thank you Mr. Wines. Your patience and perseverance was and still is inspirational. You taught me to keep my ax out of the case so it’s easy to pick up and play. I teach everyone of my students that and I’m thinking about slamming a yardstick against a music stand to keep time. Time is precious.
Yours very truly,
Check this out Tom Copeland’s solo on Danza Allegra.
And that is why I played second chair trumpet and not first. But I guess guitar and songwriting was my calling and I couldn’t walk away…Even If I Wanted To.