Thursday, January 14, 2016

What is a String Man?

"It was the role I was born to play."  I've said that in response to numerous people who have asked me, "Who is String Man?"  (and once, "What is a String Man?")  I quickly followed by explaining that the middle school orchestra needed someone to play the titular role during their performance of the song, "The Adventures of String Man."  The person in the role basically upstages the kids for three minutes and then gets to go sit down and watch the rest of the show.  It's a sweet gig.

      I was a logical choice because of my theatricality and well-known love of wearing costumes, including thrice dressing up as Spider-Man while teaching (twice to scare kids on Halloween by silently perching on a file cabinet in my room, once to recite a poem written by James W. Hall-- which is by far the most watched thing I've ever put on YouTube).  Having never learned to play an instrument, this was probably my once chance to be a part of an orchestra performance.  Even if I wasn't already on board, I owed the orchestra teacher anyway, since she previously loaned me a saxophone, which I wanted to learn to play now that I have great lungs.  (My doctor called it off: she said no woodwinds--too germy-- and the sax is a woodwind, even though it doesn't initially appear to be one!)  So, my small number of middle school students who are in orchestra were delighted that I agreed to the role-- they are actually the ones who brought the offer to my attention. 

     After I spoke with Cathy, the orchestra teacher, she explained the role in detail and we set up a rehearsal time.  I went to the high school, where the middle school orchestra practices, and I heard the heroic tune for the first time.  I hit my marks, going to specific students who feigned playing an awful solo, only to play it perfectly after my help-- which took the form of me gesticulating wildly though the air and, right on cue, in the direction of the student holding the violin.  After running through the song three times, zipping around during the song, dancing, spinning, and standing heroically to bask in the glory of their "Thanks String Man!" shouts, I realized something:  even before I went on oxygen, there was no way I could have done this without breaking into a coughing fit before the end of the song.  I was effortlessly running through the routine and just before the last rehearsal, I took a deep breath, realizing this was yet another "something" that I owed to my donor and his or her family. 

     My immediate success "selling" myself in the role of a super-hero who can help struggling soloists stemmed, perhaps, from the 18 months I spent in the role of Cord Man.  Cord Man, trailing between 8 and 50 feet of oxygen tubing behind him morning, noon, and night, did not know that one day he would use his full-breathing freedom to cavort amongst middle schoolers at two different concerts.  But he had hope.  And when faced with the opportunity, his Cord Man persona abandoned long ago, String Man wasn't going to let anyone down.

     At second concert I debuted an alternate costume (because of course I would) and played the role of String Man in an effort to convince fifth grade students to choose some sort of musical elective in high school.  The next day, a colleague with a son who had attended the concert spoke with me.  She said he surprised her with a "yes" answer after she asked if the concert had convinced him to try his hand a music.  She asked if he wanted to play an instrument, or perhaps sing, and he stopped her and said, "No.  I want to be String Man." 

He'll have to wrestle the mantle away from me.

A Hero's Journey

No comments:

Post a Comment