January 30th……“WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT IMPRESSED YOU, AS A YOUNG BOY, ABOUT THE MUSIC PROGRAM AND ITS TEACHER AT KIESTER HIGH SCHOOL?”
A euphoric state of rhathymia pervaded the school bus as my 6th Grade classmates and I bounced and jounced our way back towards our hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. We were all a bit giddy, within the echoing bus, in having reached the apogee of now being the “big guys” of Grade School there at Kiester Public School. Our respective teachers, Mrs. Barton and Mrs. Scofield had been our guides through that 6th Grade year of learning. Out of dedication, they now had also stepped up their care as they chaperoned us in this culminating adventure by escorting us way up to the giant city of St. Paul to tour the State Capitol. We were so tickled to have some hands on, in-person experience for relating to all of the Minnesota Statehood history and knowledge that we had ingested in the classrooms over the course of that past year.
For those of us who have experienced it, the only thing consistent in life is change. That natural time of morphing was about to happen to us youngsters, as well. As the “grown-up” 6th Graders, in those last days of Grade School, we were going to be ushered over to the hallowed halls of the High School side of our school facility. It was time for us to get a “taste” tour and an indoctrination of what life was going to be like in the coming school year of 1966-67 and being in the 7th Grade that coming Fall.
Obedient to our graying educators, the two classrooms of us lined up and began our short journey upon the creaking wooden floors from the second floor of our old school facility. Down the massive sections of stairs we descended as we bottomed out and spun a right turn while marching down and through the old gymnasium. Now transitioning, we hung a left turn into and up the ramp that led to where the truly “grown-up” kids lived; the 7th through 12th Graders. With those creaking wooden floors behind us, we now made our way down the expansive High School halls of polished stone floors and passed under ceiling lights that spotlighted each of us as we eventually stopped at the classroom doors of the one and only Mr. Milton Leland Glende. Through those portals behind him were the illustrious educational chambers of our Kiester High School’s Music Department. We were greeted and received by the master educator himself, Mr. Glende. We all filed into the wide-open, expansive classroom that was flooded with daylight from the walls of windows that encompassed that educational domain. We sat down in the band chairs in trepidatious awe to experience this new chapter of school life and get a tuneful earful of band life from this honored educator……..who just happened to be a full Norwegian, like myself………Yah, shure, yew betcha!! 😉
Ever since I had been knee-high to a burp, I had been deeply impressed by watching our elder sister, Rosemary, as she enjoyed being a member of that elite cadre as a musical “Bulldog” in the Kiester High School Band. When you’re a tiny guy, you hang on every word and deed of an elder sibling and that’s just what I did as I’d listen to big sister. There were Rosie’s stories of the hours practicing in Mr. Glende’s immense band room. The button-popping pride of watching her don their handsome band uniforms and witness her fellow musicians in how they also wore them with such pride. And, happily, there was the pride-filled pleasure of attending her band concerts and marching performances that were always so full of proper pomp and pageantry. The list was long, when it came to impressing my young life with how special it was to be a bona-fide member of the Kiester High School “Bulldog” Marching Band.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality of leadership is, unquestionably, integrity. Without it, no real success is possible……”. Even as a young boy of only 12 years, I could discern that THIS was the key to Mr. Glende’s success. To this very day, countless folks can attest their allegiance to this special man because he was just that……a fine man of integrity.
Just like a shepherd knowing what’s good for his sheep, Mr. Glende adroitly picked up and played a plethora of band instruments so that his new “flock”, of 6th Grade guests, could be inspired and at peace knowing that this musical shepherd would lead them to new knowledge and heights in making music; both choral and instrumental.
There was also a bit of unintended levity on that demonstration day as dear Mr. Glende started with the Woodwind Family of instruments, then moving to all the Percussion Family of instruments and for a finale, rolled on into demonstrating how the Brass Family of instruments made their sound. In what appeared to be an honest miscalculation on his part, rather than starting with the tiny mouthpiece of the French Horn, Mr. Glende picked up the giant Tuba. Its large mouthpiece allowed his lips to flap easily as he played us a short musical rendition. His next brass conquest was the Baritone, which he played with elegance. Next came the Trombone, then a Trumpet. With each Brass instrument, the mouthpieces were getting tinier and tinier. When that dear man picked up the French Horn to play, his poor pucker pooped out and a squeaky nothing came out. A few of us (including myself) gave a small giggle as Mr. Glende explained the reason why of what just transpired. With some concentrated determination, our musical hero MADE that French Horn play and forever impressed this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.!!!