The day is so clear in my mind.
July 1997. I shyly walk up the steps of the Presbyterian Church, trombone case in hand, listening for the usual blats and squawks of a band room. There are none. Instead, there is the chatter of teenagers.
An ebullient clarinetist charges at me shouting "New Person!!!" as if that's going to be my pet name for the next few months. She asks my name, where am I from, and what do I play. Name's Robyn Guest. From Sonora High, heard about the group from a friend at school. I play trombone and french horn. She grabs my arm, yanks me inside, and shouts out, "Mr. Ward, we have a HORN!!!"
A gentleman who has to look of a music man twinkling in his spectacles peers me over, perhaps measuring me for a uniform size with his piercing eyes.
"You play french horn?"
"Yes, sir, I can," I reply, twisting the trombone case in my hands as if hoping he'll notice it and not put me on horn. I hated marching with a concert horn.
"Can you march?"
"Yes, sir, been marching since I was 13."
"You ever march a mellophone?"
A what-o-phone? My high school didn't have those! "Errr... no, sir."
"Good," he grins broadly, "I'll teach you."
Apparently, I was the first horn player they had in six months. More horn players eventually came, of course, including a man who caught my eye the moment he stepped in, black trench coat, black fedora hat, and sat down next to me with his pretty silver concert horn. Little did I know we would fall in love.
Fast forward four years. July 2001. I'm playing trombone now, my sweetheart Matt is still on mellophone. It's late at night, long after practice, and Mr. Ward sits with me outside 900 Broadway as I wait for my ride, who forgot it was Monday night. For the first time, Mr. Ward looks at me, not as a kid, but... well, not quite an equal, but as an adult.
We start talking about my relationship. He asks some rather personal questions! He tells me how proud he feels that Matt and I kept things professional all through Seattle, not sneaking out, not playing grab-ass, setting an example for the younger couples.
Then he sternly tells me the only word of advice I ever ignored: "Never get married!"
Move ahead another four years. October 2005. I'm in my wedding dress, nervous, praying I don't trip. I enter the chapel where friends, family, and the preacher are waiting. Who's the first person I see? Not my husband-to-be. It was Mr. Ward, sitting near the back with other friends from the Winds, smiling at me, proud as a papa, and suddenly I'm not nervous, I know I won't trip on my dress, because this man taught me how to walk RIGHT.
Another three years ahead. May 31, 2008. Matt and I are eating in a downtown pub, about to attend the Portland Starlight Parade. Matt gets a call, and by the "TigerRag" tune playing on his cellphone, I know it's the Sintoras or someone else from the Winds. Suddenly Matt's voice goes quiet, and right then, I instinctively know what happened.
Was it a shock? Of course. Was is unexpected? Not really.
He hangs up. We quietly lift up our glasses, and in Mr. Ward fashion, we toast our Music Man.
Later that night, as we watch high school kids in their uniforms playing marches and pep tunes, we can't help but think that this is the perfect place to be during this solemn moment. At a parade!
There are so many memories, but these are the ones that come to mind at the moment. He was an amazing man who affected people more deeply than he ever imagined.