I have revived my career as a trombone player in the Heartland Symphony here in Brainerd. I played in many concerts through the eighties, but more or less haven’t been part of the group for like twenty years now. However, the opportunity arose for this fall, so I got signed up.

Our first concert of the year is music by the Russian Masters – some Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Rachmaninoff, for example. We played Friday in Pequot Lakes. Saturday night we’ll repeat the concert in Little Falls, and then Sunday in Brainerd.

There are many folks in the group that I know for one reason or another. Some fellow music teachers, some good friends, acquaintances from other areas of my life – we’re not the New York Philharmonic, but we do put out a pretty nice product for our size and skills.

And then a few memories crossed my mind – and these memories were people.

So there I was, sitting in the trombone section, playing 3rd trombone. My mind jumped to those who taught me about trombone – Jim Trotto in high school and Mark Lammers at Gustavus Adolphus college…. Both strongly influenced my career as a music teacher. Mr. T has been gone many years now, and Dr. Lammers still plays his trombone down in the Cities.

My mind also brought forth some former students – notably Dawn, who played the clarinet for me. She is no longer with us, having died at a young age and a mother of two. Nonetheless, I thought about her and her love for classical music.

And then there were those who used to play in Heartland Symphony over the years – There were two blond hot dog trumpet players – John E, who moved away, and Dwight N, who retired from his teaching career about the same time I did. There was another former student (trumpet player) who did some work with the symphony, but Brad doesn’t necessarily belong with these other two guys because he wasn’t blond, nor was he a hot dog. (Brad moved to Florida a long time ago and has made a successful life for himself….)

But I really wanted to mention a few who have passed out of this world, having played in the Heartland Symphony with me at one time or another.

Dave Nelson was a big bear of a guy with a brash sense of humor and a style all his own. I mean, who else do you know that would call the bar waitress over with the term “Hey, Wet Nurse!” He was a flute player (if you can imagine a man of his size playing the flute) who not only graced the Heartland Symphony flute section, but also played with the Minneapolis Police Band many times. I never did learn what took his life.

And there was Roger Lauve, trumpeter. He was a tall, balding gentleman – reminded me somewhat of Bud Abbott (the tall one of Abbott and Costello) and had a biting wit and wry sense of humor. He could play his trumpet well – classical, big band, and so much more. I considered him one of my first mentors as a music teacher – he taught up in Pine River and had some good bands. He died unexpectedly from what I had heard (and never knew for sure) from complications of an epileptic seizure.

And then Dale… D D D Dale Mittelstaedt. He played the French Horn in the symphony, as well as in some other groups. I type his name that way because he endured a rather severe stammer – and as politically incorrect it may be of me to mention it, he used it himself in so many other ways that showed his humanity, his great big huge sense of humor, and his great big heart. He, too, served as a mentor for me as a music teacher in the Little Falls middle school. He and his wife Shirley were as great a couple as I have ever met – so hilarious, so gracious as hosts, so wonderful as parents to their two girls…. Dale retired, lived a long life, and died, I assume, from smoking too many cigarettes.

I dedicate my playing in the fall concerts of the Heartland Symphony orchestra to these last three: guys who made so much of the music in their life – they meant a good deal to me and I thank God for the blessings they brought.