Tuba Wars: The Banda Strikes Back

“Tuba Thefts Plague California Schools”

Yes, that is an actual headline, associated with an actual news story, presumably about actual events.  It is not, however, the headline I would have written about those same events out in the Sunshine State.  No, that headline would read something like this:

“Mysterious Benefactor Keeps Tubas Away From Children”

Maybe with a tagline to the effect of: “John Philip Souza?  More like John Philip Snooza.”

Now, once upon a time, I could sort of play the clarinet – “play,” in this instance, meaning I could put air through one end and get a sound like a sickly Canadian goose out the other.  Those were dark times.  I don’t speak of them often, and I’ll never claim to have been under the illusion that an offer from the Philharmonic was forthcoming.  However, at the very least, I was not that guy.  I was not that guy who, when marching in formation, looked like he was impersonating a cruise ship.  I was not that guy who, to the envy of Sherpas everywhere, carried enough brass on his shoulders to plumb a major metropolitan area.  I was not that guy who, if I might be perfectly blunt, carried an instrument that operates in the same register as a port-a-john at a chili feed.

Yes, if the tuba is stately and majestic, then so is John Belushi.  So who the heck is running off with them?  The article, which appeared in the New York Times by the by, suggests the police are baffled, and so music teachers are racing to provide an explanation.  I quote, “Though the police have not made any arrests, music teachers say the thefts are motivated by the growing popularity of banda, a traditional Mexican music form in which tubas play a dominant role.”

Ladies and gentlemen – when music teachers practice criminology.  I’m not sure whether applause is in order or a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the safety of our nation’s accordions relative to the sleeping menace that is polka.  It will return.  Mark my lederhosen.

I guess they sort of have a rationale for the whole banda theory.  Specifically, “a banda can make at least $3,000 for a night’s work at a wedding or quinceañera. And the tuba player, who is often the leader of the group, usually gets the largest share.”

But I don’t know.  Seems like a lot of work to me.  Maybe my understanding of larceny is somewhat oversimplified, but I’m of a mind that there should be relatively few steps between “purloin” and “profit.”  When my strategic plan starts to include things like, “front for a band,” “book wedding/quinceañera/bar mitzvah,” and “liberate tuba from middle school,” I start to think that maybe I’m working too hard.


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