Mr. Arnoldi

My first band teacher. My first music teacher was my mother. She sang and still sings everyday. My second music teacher was Mrs. Bruce, my 2nd grade teacher. We sang in her class everyday. She played the autoharp like it owed her money πŸ™‚

I was sadden when I learned of Mr. Arnoldi’s passing. It was years after the fact. I never thanked him for being a great influence on my life. He was a great role model. He got things done and he got them done right.

It was a combination of things that lead me to music. My mother’s love of music, bands like Chicago and Blood, Sweat, & Tears, and the local high schools marching band recent performance at my elementary school were all influences. What sold the deal was when a man, Mr. Arnoldi came to my 4th grade class and made a presentation. If we wanted to learn an instrument we would get out of class an hour and a half early every Wednesday.


The process he used to determine what instrument we played was rather interesting. We sat in chairs on the MPR stage and he called us up one at a time. He stood next to a table covered with different wind instruments. As each of us stood before him individually he would examine our mouth. He would then select an instrument and hand it to us to blow on. If we made a sound, that was your instrument. If after going through all the instruments you made no sound or no acceptable sound, he handed you drum sticks πŸ˜€

Mr. Arnoldi was also the middle school band director. By the time I reached high school, I realized what a great teacher he was. All through elementary and Jr High band we thought he was too strict, too demanding. He only did things one way, the right way.

We had to sit at attention all the time, playing or not. No talking, after one warning you would be sent to the corner, without instrument, where you still had to sit at attention and not talk. If you were a problem more than twice, you were out of band.

Letter A, page 4, blue book was our tuning exercise. One whole note, two half notes, one whole note. We could spend the entire class period on that exercise, until we performed it to his satisfaction. Section 22, scale #9 was a B flat scale that ended with an arpeggio. Second exercise would do after tuning. Again, no “music” until we did that right.

He was a task master, he drove us, he demanded nothing but the best. He turned out great bands πŸ™‚

A couple months into learning to play, he announced to us he would be holding try outs for the district honor band. The best elementary beginning band students would get to play with the best Jr. High students. I tried out and made it.

Oh yeah, another incentive, make honor band, get out of class another hour and a half early and ride a bus to one of the junior highs for rehearsal πŸ™‚

I clearly remember the end of that first honor band rehearsal. Ricardo Lujan, 8th grader, first chair, came to me at the end, gave me the once over twice and asked how long I had been playing. I told him, 2 month. I get the once over twice again. Mmm hmm, he said to me very dimissively and walked away.


Mr. Arnoldi was an amazing dresser. Always looked ready to stand before an audience for a performance. That first honor band concert blew my mind. The mean, strict, sometimes angry task master was replaced by this charming, suave, elegant speaker who was swooning the audience with kind words and praise for what a wonderful group of young people we were and that they were going to be treated to a wonderful concert. The he turned around, huge smile (that I had NEVER seen) raised his baton and said, very positively and enthusiastically, okay kids let’s show them!

Who was this man!

We knocked it out of the park. Of course we did, he had prepared us well.

The man was always prepared.

One time, in junior high, he trusted me to get something from his car.

When you trust kids, sometimes, not a good idea.

I locked his keys in his car. After running out of ideas, quickly, I return to class, head bowed and approach him awaiting the wrath. It never came.

Before I reached him I could here the jingle of keys. He had a second set. Of course he did.

When you work with kids, be perpared for not so smart moments πŸ˜€

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One Response to Mr. Arnoldi

  1. Camille says:

    Reminded me of my first band director…Mr. Hoops.

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