Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lessons Learned the Hard Way: When your college professor inadvertently (and consistently) uses double entendres, try not to laugh

(photo @ pokato.net)


If you are ever in a college music studio for a particular instrument (like trombone), you will discover that each member of the group tends to fit a certain role that has been assigned to them:  The perfect one, the disrespectful one, the weird one, etc.

I was unfortunately saddled with the label of "the perverted/twisted one" through a serious of unfortunate and unfair instances that were (mostly) beyond my control.  My trombone professor is the person who began referring to me as the one with a "dirty mind", but it was actually (mostly) his fault.

My professor constantly and inadvertently used double entendres at some of the most awkward points of conversation imaginable.  I know that you are probably thinking that he did this on purpose, but none of us really thought that he did.  For starters, his actual attempts at humor were usually pretty terrible.  The funny things that he said on accident were always much funnier. When anyone (especially me) would laugh at his unfortunate and possibly Freudian slips, he rarely if ever saw the humor in it.

Through a series of 3 encounters like this that I was directly involved in, my professor developed the iron clad perception that I could turn any spoken phrase into some type of off color joke.



Strike 1


One of the good things about our professor was that he knew more about different techniques for the playing the trombone than any other person on the planet.  Unfortunately, this often manifested itself into various periods of intense and crushing focus on one way of doing things that may or may not have worked for everyone.

One of these methods required you to form your embouchure, move toward your mouthpiece, and firmly air attack the note as soon as it touched your lips.  The purpose was to make sure that you were setting up your embouchure and air for the right note before you tried to play it.  Our professor called these "Ho Attacks."

                                                            gtplanet
Just stay with me here...


While we were told not to do this in normal playing situations, we were required to do it as a technique exercise/warm up.  Having spent the majority of my middle and high school music education being told specifically NOT to air attack, I found this sudden reversal of articulation methods to be a bit of a challenge.  

"Nick, I know this is tough," my professor said.  "But if you want to be a better player, this is what you need to be doing.  You want to be a better player, right?"

"Yes," I answered (though I briefly considered saying 'no' just to throw him off).

"Good," he replied.  "You need to make this a daily part of your warm up routine.  It should be one of the first things you do when you begin playing and you need to do it for at least 5 minutes a day.  After that I think you will notice a huge difference."

"And if you are still having trouble with it," he continued, "then you just need to do more ho's."

                              sodahead

My brain had virtually no time to tell my mouth to shut itself before childish giggling spewed forth from my lips.  My professor looked at me, rolled eyes his, and then began his speech of shame.

"Really?  You think it's that funny?"  he asked with one eyebrow raised to his hairline.  "It's only funny because your mind made it that way."

He was clearly annoyed, but at least this time my professor admonished me with a smile.  The next incident would not find me to be as fortunate.



Strike 2

During one particularly grueling semester, our professor got on a huge kick about posture.  Now to be fair, much of his advice during this time was very appreciated and something that I still use today:  Having good posture for playing a wind instrument is not just about sitting up straight, but also about sitting in a way that releases pressure off of your lower back so that you can better support your air.  

My professor, however, never did anything halfway.  He decided to bring in a "posture specialist" from another school to work with us on different breathing and sitting techniques.  

                                              culturemap.com
We all figured it would just be a nun that would 
strike us with a ruler when we slouched.

Before having us meet as a group, our professor actually scheduled an individual posture appointment on a Saturday morning for himself.  On Monday morning, he came in and raved to us about all the work that she had done with him.

One of the methods that they focused on was breathing from the "bottom up."  People will often times take a big breath by loudly sucking in air while tightening their chest.  This tension actually decreases your air capacity and support.  What the posture specialist stressed was thinking of the air slowly filling up from your diaphragm to the top of your lungs.

She even said to think about breathing in "from your feet."  Our professor set the stage for his breathing "epiphany" by explaining that at his personal session with the specialist, he had just come in from jogging and was still wearing his running clothes

"It was amazing." he excitedly began.  "I've always been able to make my stomach expand when I breathe, but never like this.  And when she told me to breath in from my feet and up through my legs, I actually felt my shorts move.


                                                      amazinavenue


There was something about my professor being alone in his office with a female posture specialist and "feeling his shorts move" that made me absolutely lose it.  Unfortunately, he did not see the humor in the situation at all.  Unlike the last time, my professor sharply admonished me and suggested that I "grow up."



Strike 3

A member of our trombone studio had recently been arrested on drug related charges.  This was not the first time that illegal substances had gotten him into trouble, but it was the first time that he had been sent to jail for it.  When he came out, he asked our professor if he could come back to the trombone studio.

Despite the fact that he had repeatedly messed up his college career (and his life in general), he was still a very talented trombone player.  Our professor decided to give him another chance, but had some misgivings about doing so.  At the end of one of my lessons, he asked me if I thought he was doing the right thing.

"Well, I'm all for second chances," I began, "but this is chance number 127 for this guy.  I want him to do well and get his act together, too.  But I have to wonder if you would be giving him yet another opportunity if he wasn't as talented as he is."

"That's a good point," he replied.

"I also worry about enabling," I continued.  "There's a chance that he will look at this as an opportunity to get things right...or he might look at it as an affirmation that he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.  If this was one of the first times he had messed up, I'd be all about giving him another chance without any reservations.  Since this has happened so many times before with the same result, I'm not sure what to think."

"Well, that's where you're wrong," my professor sternly replied.  "Because this is the first time that he will be accountable to me.  And you better believe that I'm not going to let him get away with any of the crap that he's done in the past."

At this point, my professor had made a confidence inspiring statement that would have been a great way to end the conversation...but he had one last thing to say that to this day is the most awkward statement made to me by a teacher that I have ever heard:

"He thinks he's untouchable.  Well I'm gonna touch him like he's never been touched before."


                                                            hotstockmarket
I tried not to laugh...I really did.

As my vocal chords betrayed me and laughter burst forth from my lips, my professor shook his head and sighed "It's always something with you, isn't it Nick?"

As anyone can see, the three incidents that caused me to laugh like a rabid hyena at my professor were all understandable.  Unfortunately, he did not see it that way; he had decided that it was simply my corrupted and twisted mind (rather than his poor word choices) that brought unwanted attention and ridicule to some of the things that he said.

I learned an important lesson that day...

...well, actually, no I didn't.  With the exception of the "shorts moving" statement, I really can't see many people not laughing in any of those situations.  When it comes down to it, I'll carry the burden of misperception if it means that I get to keep my sense of humor.