Cornet: (n) a valved wind instrument of the trumpet family.

Mr. Rallihand.

He was my junior high school band director.

I didn’t think much about him—he was just another teacher. When you’re that age, you look at all those who are educating you as mean funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
eighty-year-old grown-ups.

Yet I did get him to smile—because unlike many of my fellow-band-mates, I chose not to play the saxophone or clarinet as my primary instrument.

I picked trumpet.

He explained to me what a noble instrument it was—how it beckoned armies into battle and punctuated the victories of the Roman legions.

(I lost interest.)

He told me where to go to find a trumpet to rent.

I gave the information to my mother, and she came back with a horn. Now, I was no expert on the mechanics or appearance of trumpets—but this one was smaller. When I took it to band class, Mr. Rallihand frowned at it like it had just tooted foul gas.

He said that this was not a trumpet but rather, was a cornet. He then launched into a lengthy explanation, of which I only remembered two thoughts:

  1. Small
  2. Harder to play

So as I squawked out my first notes on my cornet and Mr. Rallihand patiently instructed me on how to squeeze my lips into the mouthpiece to produce tone, I had the perfect out.

“But Mr. Rallihand,” I whined, “it’s smaller. And hard to play.”

I think he regretted sharing that with me.

Finally, one day he walked in carrying a new trumpet which the school had just purchased for the band program. He handed it to me, and I made my way back to the row of the “trumpeteers.”

I was sad to the point of anger. Not only was I no longer special with my trumpet-with-shortcomings, I also now had no excuse for sounding like crap.

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